Long Beach residents could soon see stricter enforcements on mask-wearing, according to city officials.
The Long Beach City Council voted 8-1 on Tuesday in favor of exploring alternative ways to enforce COVID-19 health orders and ensure residents are wearing masks when in public.
While the city has mainly relied upon residents’ voluntary compliance, the agenda item was brought forth by councilmember Jeannine Pearce, who said many residents have been asking how the city is enforcing health orders, especially for those who are non-compliant.
“What I’ve heard from my constituents is that they want to feel safe and they want to see that the city is taking our mask mandate seriously,” Pearce said.
Pearce asked City Manager Tom Modica to look into what other cities are doing to enforce mask-wearing but argued against turning to police-enforced compliance.
Although Pearce received great support from some residents and fellow councilmembers on that issue, not all individuals who attended the meeting felt the same.
“The real issue is this is the law. It is a state mandate to wear a mask. It’s not optional,” said Christopher Robson, a member of Long Beach’s Board of Health and Human Services. “It’s not up to whether or not the police wish to enforce it or whether the city wants the police or anyone else to enforce it.”
Robson cited concerns over a recently released photograph depicting a crowd of over a hundred Long Beach Police Department officers, with only a few masks in sight.
Pearce also raised concerns to the city manager about holding city officials accountable and ensuring that city employees like police officers are adhering to public health orders.
“As city manager, it is my expectation that all of our employees wear masks. That has been a constant message since the beginning but we are ramping up enforcement of that as well,” Modica said. “The police department has put in a number of very specific directions about the requirement for officers to be wearing masks…and there will be discipline that is associated with that if we’re not getting compliance.”
The council discussed this proposal on “a difficult day for Long Beach,” noted Mayor Robert Garcia, after the city set new records of reported COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and case positivity rates. As of Dec. 8, the city has had 19,608 total confirmed cases of the virus and 288 total deaths.
“This pandemic is not getting better. It is getting worse across the United States, and that is also the case here in Long Beach,” Garcia said. “Every day in this country we are seeing 9/11-level events when it relates to deaths. 9/11 is repeating itself every single day in this country due to this pandemic. That is horrifying, and it should be alarming to all of us.”
The next city council meeting will be held via teleconference on Dec. 15 at 5 p.m.