The Chronicle has published two excellent reviews this week contrasting Solano County with our Bay Area neighbors. The first below profiles Solano with stats and detailed interviews with Solano leaders and residents.
In Solano County, the Bay Area’s COVID outlier, masks are anything but universal
SF Chronicle, by Kellie Hwang, Danielle Echeverria, Sep. 19, 2021
Paulie Spacco believes anyone infected with the coronavirus should just “let the body do its thing” and build antibodies, even though an 18-month pandemic and the deaths of 1 in 500 Americans point to the dangers of following such a strategy.
Spacco, a Vacaville resident and small-business owner in his 60s, and his friend Gregorio Serrao, in his 70s, both say they have no intention of getting vaccinated and oppose restricting people’s activities to try to control the spread of COVID-19. Over sandwiches recently at La Borgata Italian Deli on Vacaville’s Main Street, the two dismissed evidence proving that masks work to help block transmission of virus-laden droplets.
VACAVILLE — City Council members voted Tuesday to require face masks indoors at city buildings and during certain activities as the delta variant continues its surge.
Council members debated the proposed directive of the use of face coverings inside all city facilities and while participating in outdoor programs and events conducted by the city when social distancing is not possible.
“I think people have the right to make the decision that is best for their family, whether to put something in your body or wear masks,” Councilman Roy Stockton said. “This to me feels like tyranny.”
“This is not about tyranny,” Councilman Michael Silva said. “This is about how to keep staff safe and showing that we genuinely are concerned for keeping staff safe.”
The city government has experienced firsthand the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
A total of 29 city employees tested positive for Covid-19 in August and numerous others were forced to miss work for testing and quarantine due to workplace exposures, the city reports. Several of the positive cases were in vaccinated employees.
Solano County Public Health reported 773 active Covid-19 cases in the county as of Wednesday with 92 people hospitalized and the availability of staffed ICU beds at 23%.
Roy Stockton Michael Silva
“Part of this is looking at this as a business,” Vice Mayor Nolan Sullivan said. “We have an outbreak in the city and it is affecting how business is working. I am for anything that helps keep things moving.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended July 27 that face coverings be worn in public indoor settings, regardless of vaccination status, in areas of substantial or high Covid-19 transmission. The California Department of Public Health has recommended that fully vaccinated people wear face coverings in indoor public settings statewide.
Vacaville has the lowest vaccinate among its residents 12 and older – 68.3% – among the seven Solano County cities.
The number of reported cases is going down from the surge seen in August. But numbers are still high with some 11,399 cases in Vacaville. The number of deaths is 280 with 16 recently added during the current surge.
The CDC has released data that indicates people who are unvaccinated who contract Covid-19 are 11 times more likely to die than are those who are vaccinated.
The face-covering mandate will be effective until repealed by either the city manager or the City Council.
Even if you don’t check out a book, it’s a great place to just sit and read a magazine or get on the internet!
Here’s from the Benicia library website about pandemic hours and masks: “The Benicia Public Library has restored regular service hours, and we are excited to welcome you back inside our building. Whether you want to use a computer or plug into our free Wi-Fi, visit an exhibit, borrow materials or just browse our bookcases, we are here for you. Please bring your mask and library card. If you do not have one, they are free.”
The mask requirement applies whether you are vaccinated or not.
Seems vaccinated staff and visitors are granted asylum from masking at the John F. Kennedy and Springstowne libraries in Vallejo.
Both facilities are exempt from the Vallejo City Council’s Sept. 7 “mask mandate” for all public buildings, vaccinated or not, because they are “subject to the county and library policies, procedures, rules and regulations that govern all library branches,” according to Suzanne Olawski, director of Library Services in Fairfield.
In Solano County, only Vallejo and Benicia have mask mandates in place.
Vallejo Councilmember Katy Miessner and Solano County Supervisor Erin Hannigan said they received complaints from citizens visiting the local libraries after noticing some staff members going maskless.
Hannigan said that she “received an email from a resident citing librarians were not wearing masks, some were. When asked why they weren’t masked a librarian stated that the county doesn’t have a mask mandate and since they were in a county facility they believe they are exempt from the Vallejo mask mandate.”
Hannigan said she forwarded the email to Olawski.
“The City (Vallejo) owns the buildings and contracts with the County for library services,” Olawski said late Friday. “Per the operating agreement, the libraries operate as branches of the Solano County Library.”
A sign posted at the JFK Library entry effective June 15 states that “by entering this facility without a face covering you are self-attesting that you are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.” For individuals who are unvaccinated, there is a list of reasons they could still be exempt from masking.
Information counter staffers at both Vallejo libraries sit behind framed Plexiglas shields. At JFK, most staffers still wore masks. Most of the staffers at Springstowne didn’t.
“If an employee is fully vaccinated, it is optional for them to wear a mask at work,” Olawski said. “However, any staff member not vaccinated is required to wear a mask at work. Face coverings are available to any employee that requests one, regardless of their vaccination status.”
Olawski added that “the county’s practice at this time is masks are not required for people over the age of 12 if they are vaccinated.”
Anyone over the age of 12 not wearing a mask in the library “is self-attesting to being vaccinated,” Olawski continued. “however, there are individuals who may be exempt from wearing a face covering because of medical or physical impairment issues.”
Not good enough, Miessner said, already “deeply disappointed that Solano County Public Health decided the County didn’t need an indoor mask mandate, given the delta variant causing increases to Vallejo’s infection rates and hospitalizations. So I was furious when I heard the county decided they can disregard Vallejo’s mask mandate in Vallejo libraries.”
The library, continued Miessner, “is a place where children tend to gather and children under 12 who cannot be vaccinated depend on adults who are, and who wear masks. Obviously, Vallejo children can’t depend on Solano County Public Health. But I was grateful that Vallejo had the authority to act on our own.”
If the policy was up to Hannigan, “all county employees working inside buildings in any city with a mask mandate should be masked,” adding that President Joe Biden’s vaccination mandate for public agencies and vaccine recommendation for private employers “is the right direction.”
“Implementing vaccine mandates for employees and contractors is the only way we will get closer to ending this pandemic and reduce the opportunity for new variants,” Hannigan said.
Vallejo Councilmember Rozzana Verder-Aliga said she “agrees that public and private buildings, offices and businesses should follow the mask mandate passed by the Vallejo City Council last week. This mask mandate is for the health and safety of our residents and everyone.”
Verder-Aliga said masks are mandated where she works at the Solano County Behavior Health Clinics in Vallejo and Fairfield and also mandated at the county courthouse in Fairfield where she served on jury duty.
The Vallejo City Council said it will re-visit the mask mandate in mid-October.
Because Benicia’s public library is not part of the county library system, masks are required for everyone, Steve Young said Friday. Any changes, the mayor added, will be based on COVID case count.
The county currently “does not mandate masks for vaccinated people in indoor public spaces, except for those venues where the state specifically requires, such as public transportation. schools, and healthcare facilities,” Solano Public Health Director Bela Matyas said Friday.
Solano County Supervisor Monica Brown sent a letter dated Aug. 27 to Vallejo Mayor Robert McConnell and the Vallejo City Council encouraging the city re-instate a mask mandate — which it did — and noting that she doesn’t have enough votes on the board of supervisors to implement a (county-wide) mandate.
“I am in full support of a mask mandate in Solano County,” wrote Brown, emphasizing that “the science supports requiring face coverings” and that “the unvaccinated are filling our hospitals at alarming rates. Vaccinations are crucial to beating the virus, but so are mask mandates.”