Opinion: San Diego should demand masks at essential businesses indoors
Strasbourg works in health information technology in San Diego and lives in Carmel Valley. Simon is a professor at the California Western School of Law and lives in Carmel Valley.
The masks are a important tool in preventing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, but San Diego County is not keeping up with the science regarding hiding in essential businesses indoors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that in areas of “substantial” or “high” transmission, anyone over 2 years old should wear a mask. More precisely, the CDC says, “If you are fully vaccinated, to maximize protection against the Delta variant and avoid spreading it to others, wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of ââhigh or high transmission.”
According to the CDC COVID Data Tracker, San Diego County has been in the “substantial” or “high” transmission categories virtually every day since July 20. For example, in the seven days ending November 29, there were 2,278 new cases, which translates to 68 cases per 100,000 people, placing the county in the “significant” transmission risk category ( case rate between 50 and 99).
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Despite these disturbing facts, San Diego County does not have a mask requirement in place for essential indoor businesses (such as pharmacies and grocery stores), even though the county does require masks in other contexts such as health facilities, schools and public transport. Instead, the county has put in place a much softer mask for most businesses. “recommendationÂ»For vaccinated people, with compulsory masks only for unvaccinated people. Of course, there is currently no easy way to determine whether a client is vaccinated or not. This policy depends on individuals and companies taking the appropriate precautions to protect public health. The net effect, however, is that many people do not wear masks in essential indoor businesses, including those where unvaccinated children are frequently present.
The high prevalence of people choosing not to wear masks in essential businesses is particularly unfortunate for vulnerable members of the community. First, some people cannot be vaccinated, including children under the age of 5 and anyone under the age of 18 whose parents may not yet choose to have them vaccinated. Additionally, the lack of a consistent masking policy for essential businesses indoors also puts the health of employees at risk, raising concerns about fairness. In particular, these employees are often required to be indoors for shifts of eight hours or more in the presence of many customers who are not wearing masks and who may not be vaccinated.
Unlike San Diego County, Los Angeles County requires masks in all indoor public places. On October 6, the Los Angeles City Council went even further by requiring proof of vaccination to enter restaurants, bars, nightclubs, gymnasiums, sports arenas, shopping malls, cinemas, bowling alleys, museums, hair and nail salons and other indoor locations. In the bay area, several counties have an indoor mask mandate in place since August 3.
Meanwhile, the city and county of San Diego continue to ignore CDC guidelines and fail to act to protect public health. Why should San Diego be any different?
Implementing a mask requirement for essential businesses based on levels of transmission in the community would be similar to existing laws that ban indoor smoking. The ability to smoke indoors is limited to protect the public’s right to breathe smoke-free air and recognizes fairness concerns for employees who have been forced to breathe second-hand smoke. Likewise, entering an essential indoor business without wearing a mask should be temporarily restricted in order to protect public health and fairness, especially for those who are not yet vaccinated or are subject to increased exposure due to of their job.
No one likes to wear masks. Once community transmission falls to safer levels, these restrictions can be lifted. The fastest way to do this is for everyone to get vaccinated if they are eligible and wear masks in essential indoor businesses. For now, the county should immediately implement an indoor mask requirement for essential indoor businesses based on community transmission levels. Similar to the Politics in the Bay Area, this requirement can be waived when the county reaches the “moderate” level based on CDC criteria (less than 50 total new cases per 100,000 people over a seven-day period) and remains there for at least three weeks. In the meantime, the health and safety of all residents of San Diego County must be protected.