S.E. Williams | Contributor
Friday evening, following two-days of often intense public comment and discussion, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to lift the county’s order requiring the need for face masks in public and adherence to social distancing.
The Board’s decision appeared rooted in stunning ignorance, considering virologists and health experts the world over, continue to warn they are learning more each day about the novel coronavirus including how its symptoms manifest and its ability to spread.
Regardless, the Board directed the county’s Public Health Director Dr. Cameron Kaiser to rescind the mandate to wear face masks and practice safe distancing in public.
In an interesting attempt to try and have it both ways or as a probable effort to incorporate a “weasel clause,” while rescinding its requirement for face masks and social distancing, the Board simultaneously encouraged the public to cover their faces and practice social distancing when practical. What the heck does that mean?
What is known about COVID-19 is people who are asymptomatic can spread the virus. We know people in the day or two before becoming symptomatic are the most contagious. We know people who test negative for the virus today, may test positive for the virus tomorrow. And, we know citizens were asked to wear masks, not so much to protect themselves, but to protect those they encounter, to reduce the possibility of those people getting sick. In addition, we know residents of the county continue to test positive for COVID-19 and the death toll in the region continues to rise.
When Kaiser issued the original mandatory order on April 4, 2020 he noted, “While more and more Riverside County residents are getting COVID-19, not everybody’s getting the message,” he said referring to the initial voluntary request to comply.
Cameron continued, “It started with staying home, social distancing and covering your face. But now we change from saying that you should, to saying that you must.” When Kaiser made the requests for compliance mandatory he further advised, “The purpose of this order is to encourage compliance with these important measures that have been implemented to flatten the curve.”
But the curve has not flattened.
What has changed however is protestors made their voices heard. The partisan bitterness was tense as alleged, trumped-up Trump supporters appeared to have full support of the Republican board members, as obviously reflected by members of the board who universally opined about being forced to comply with what they perceived as unreasonable requests to protect the life of members in the community.
And so, after two lengthy meetings, and in spite of legitimate concerns for life expressed by some when measured against purportedly contrived, vicious and villainous bluster on the other, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to rescind the order.
In addition to walking the Republican line, the Board also faced legitimate concerns over a projected $100 million budget shortfall. Obviously, the Board’s penchant for avoiding red ink provided what some consider reasonable cover for a questionable decision.
Those who follow the science evolving in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, and who believe the Board made the wrong decision, still pray the supervisors made the right call and families and loved ones in the area are not forced to suffer deaths that might have been avoided. Only time will tell.
Meanwhile, San Bernardino County—another Republican led municipality—also got in step with the White House on Friday and rescinded its order for face coverings and social distancing.
Repealing its April 23, 2020 directive, which established the mandate, Board officials stressed gatherings and short-term rentals are still prohibited and social distancing at essential businesses is still required under the state’s “stay-at-home” order.
“The County strongly urges everyone to continue wearing face coverings in public to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, and businesses may still require face coverings for customers and employees,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Curt Hagman.
Not unlike Riverside, San Bernardino County also appears to be making an attempt to cover its decision with a thin veil.