City council to consider mask ordinance
by Steven Felschundneff | firstname.lastname@example.org
During a special meeting on Tuesday, the Claremont City Council will consider an emergency ordinance to require face coverings within four “mask zones” in the city that, if passed, would go into affect immediately.
The four mask zones include: Thompson Creek trail, the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park, the Village and the Village expansion. The boundaries for the two Village areas include the railroad tracks on the south, College Avenue on the East and Cornell Avenue on the west. The northern boundary for the Village will be Harrison Avenue, and for the Village expansion will be Bonita Avenue.
People not wearing masks would get a warning. However, the ordinance does have some teeth with first time offenders facing a $100 fine. The second time someone is cited the fine increases to $200, and to $500 for a third offense. An individual could get a second, or third offense in a single day if that person continues to refuse to wear a face covering.
The action became necessary because city staff noticed that about 50 percent of people in the congested areas of the city were not in compliance with Los Angeles County’s face covering order which went into effect on June 19.
The county’s order requires: “All persons wear a cloth face covering over both the nose and mouth whenever they leave their place of residence and are, or can be, in contact with or walking near or past others who are non-household members in both public and private places, whether indoors or outdoors.”
“In addition to creating an increased risk of COVID-19 transmission, lack of compliance with the state and county mask orders has led to escalating tensions between citizens and city personnel who are trying to encourage compliance with these orders,” according to the council’s agenda report.
Public information officer with the city of Claremont, Bevin Handel, told the COURIER on Monday that the ordinance would be enforced by any city employee with the authority to write a citation, with the bulk of that responsibility falling on the shoulders of the park rangers. The city has hired some additional rangers in anticipation of the ordinance going into affect.
The city created a park ambassador program, which is made up of employees from the human services department, to assist rangers with the public outreach aspect of the new law. Park ambassadors will patrol the Thompson Creek Trail and the Wilderness Park and will contact residents and visitors who are not wearing masks to provide them with information.
“Like in the old American Express commercials, ‘Don’t leave home without it,’” Ms. Handel said. However, city employees will have surgical type masks to distribute to anyone who does not have one handy.
Police will only be called if rangers, ambassadors, police aides or reserve officers encounter a combative individual while attempting to enforce the mask ordinance.
The city will also deploy police aides and reserve officers to the Village areas to help with enforcement. Like the park ambassadors, this will largely be for outreach, however, reserve officers and the community services officer do have the authority to write citations.
Exemptions to the ordinance will include: children under the age of two, people with a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask, the hearing impaired and people seated at restaurants.
Individuals engaged in solo outdoor activity such as hiking or cycling will also be exempt when they can easily maintain a six-foot distance from others. Ms. Handel said this exception to the ordinance would include the popular “loop trail” in the Wilderness Park during less popular times for recreation or when there are few enough other park visitors that social distancing is easy. Even then, one must have a mask ready and put it on when returning to more populated areas.
The special meeting of the Claremont City Council will be conducted via the Zoom app on Tuesday, August 11 at 6:30 p.m. The community can watch or engage in public comment. For further details see the city’s website.
On Monday Public health reported 288 total cumulative coronavirus cases in both the city of Claremont and its unincorporated areas, and six deaths.