But later yesterday morning, our Solano County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to respect local mandates in facilities run by the County. (The Board would not recognize the importance of masking indoors in the rest of the county – they failed to even bring that issue to a vote.) But as of today, if you visit or work in any of Vallejo’s Solano offices, including the Superior Court building and the libraries, you are obligated to follow Vallejo’s mask mandate.
Residents can feel a bit better about entering County buildings in Vallejo now, but you may want to stay away from County facilities in Fairfield and Vacaville. And I want you to know that you’re STILL welcome here in Benicia, where ALL public indoors facilities require masks for workers and visitors alike.
[BenIndy Editor: Note that the Board never even addressed Supervisor Brown’s request for a countywide indoors mask mandate like we established here in Benicia and Vallejo. Benicia and Vallejo are clearly on our own here in Solano County. Concerned up-county residents should consider shopping and doing business down here in Benicia/Vallejo. And Solano employees might want to start looking for a new job! – R.S.]
Divided board won’t mandate vaccines for Solano employees
County workers must adhere to mask policies in communities where they work
FAIRFIELD — Solano County employees will not be required to get Covid-19 vaccinations, but will have to honor mask requirements in city jurisdictions that have them.
Benicia and Vallejo temporarily require everyone – vaccinated or not – to wear a mask in indoor public places. The state has the same mandate for individuals who are not vaccinated.
Masks are required in all medical facilities, and in schools.
Benicia Mayor Steve Young was one of 17 individuals who called into the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday. The county also received more than 100 written correspondences, two-thirds of which opposed the policies. The callers were slightly weighted in the other direction.
Young urged the board to enact its own mask mandate, though that issue was never formally up for consideration.
A county mask mandate for public indoor places was expected to be one of two issues considered by the board, but Supervisor Erin Hannigan, who had raised the mask requirement and the county vaccination mandate, backed off the full mask mandate in favor of requiring that county employees adhere to the rules of other jurisdictions.
The new mandate mostly affects county employees who work at county buildings in Vallejo. The board supported the policy on a 4-1 vote with board Chairman John Vasquez dissenting without comment.
The supervisors voted 2-3, with Vasquez, Supervisor Jim Spering and Supervisor Mitch Mashburn in the majority, to defeat Hannigan’s motion to mandate vaccinations for county employees and contractors. Supervisor Monica Brown supported the action.
“The only way we are going to get out of this pandemic is everyone get vaccinated,” Hannigan said.
Those who argued against the vaccines for county employees, also largely argued against the mask requirement, framing the issues as ones of personal freedoms and choice.
Some took great exception to anyone telling them what they must inject into their bodies. Others were less forceful, and even noted they, too, had been vaccinated, but were in no position to tell others what to do, and strongly believe government should stay out of personal medical decisions.
But Corianne Tunstall, a local hairdresser, said those “personal decisions” do not only affect those individuals, as she is frequently exposed to clients who have not been vaccinated, and who refuse to wear masks even though state law requires them to do so.
She told the board she could not afford to get sick and miss work, and felt it was wrong that others could choose to expose her and she could, in turn, expose her family.
Others who supported the policies included Dr. Seth Kaufman, chief medical officer at NorthBay Healthcare. He called the vaccines and masks critical pieces in the fight against Covid-19.
“We are off the charts on the number of patients we are seeing,” Kaufman said. “Our hospitals are full; our clinics are overflowing with Covid patients.”
The public discussion followed a Covid-19 status update by Dr. Bela Matyas, the county public health officer.
He told the board that the county is emerging from the latest Covid surge that started shortly after July 4, and that includes lower number of individuals being hospitalized.
Matyas reiterated his position that a mask policy will be ineffective because the data show transmission is not taking place in public settings, but rather at private social gatherings and at home. He noted that the vast majority of counties that have mask mandates are not seeing their disease rates fall like they should if the policy worked.
However, he also reiterated his position that the best way to defeat Covid-19 is to get vaccinated.
About 64% of the residents 12 or older have been fully vaccinated, while 76% have received at least one shot. That leaves about 135,000 residents who are eligible for vaccines who have not been innoculated, Matyas said.
Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data Friday that indicate people who are unvaccinated who contract Covid-19 are 11 times more likely to die than are those who are vaccinated.
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.”