With Winter coming and the Omicron variant looming, the City Council’s Dec. 7 mask mandate vote is crucial
On Dec. 7, the City Council will make a potentially life-or-death decision: whether to extend Benicia’s indoor mask mandate. If it fails to do so, the mandate will end that evening.
Such a failure will be a de facto vote for Covid and against public health. Here are a few of the many reasons why:
- The omicron variant is here. More specifically, the first case of this new, potentially dangerous Covid variant has been detected in San Francisco, in a vaccinated individual. https://www.sfchronicle.com/health/article/First-U-S-omicron-case-found-in-San-Francisco-16666493.php The World Health Organization warns that it “poses a ‘very high’ global risk because of the possibility that it spreads more easily and might resist vaccines and immunity in people who were infected with previous strains.” https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2021/11/29/1059723751/omicron-variant-latest-high-risk-world-health-organization I don’t want to sound too alarmist, since we will not know until later this month (at the earliest) whether omicron is a false alarm or a five-alarm fire. But that’s all the more reason to be cautious and maintain the mandate.
- Winter is coming. It brings the likelihood of a surge in Covid cases and resulting deaths due to more people being indoors and at holiday gatherings. We’ve seen last winter’s Covid wave and other waves caused or exacerbated by relaxing precautions prematurely, even after vaccines were made available. The Council must learn from experience and not make that mistake. And again, it’s best to err on the side of caution.
- The overwhelming consensus among scientific studies and experts is that face masks help protect against Covid, even for the vaccinated. Further information and links to the research can be found at The Benicia Independent blog, including its reposting of the excellent letter Dr. Richard Fleming of Benicia sent to the Council last month (https://beniciaindependent.com/open-letter-to-benicia-city-council-dr-richard-fleming-on-mask-mandate/) and my own letter at that time (https://beniciaindependent.com/10-reasons-to-extend-benicias-face-mask-mandate/). The pro-mask/mandate consensus has been further represented by almost all Bay Area counties’ health officials, the State health department, the CDC, the Napa-Solano Medical Society, thousands of medical and public health authorities and the numerous Benicia-based medical and public health experts who have called in to Council meetings in support of the mandate. The one partial exception to this overwhelming consensus is the Solano Country health officer. But as Dr. Fleming’s letter points out, he has not provided any data in support of his position.
Those wishing to let the Council members know of your opinion on the masks mandate may contact them at:
You can also contact City Clerk Lisa Wolfe, LWolfe@ci.benicia.ca.us, who forwards emails on such matters to the Council and staff.
If interested in participating in the December 7 meeting via Zoom or call-in, the Office of City Manager Eric Upson will have the relevant information, at 707-746-4200 or EUpson@ci.benicia.ca.us.