KTVU News coverage – Benicia City Council to Consider Renewing Mask Mandate on Tues. Aug. 24

Benicia considering indoor mask mandate

KTVU News, By Greg Liggins, August 22, 2021

BENICIA, Calif. – A city in Solano County will soon decide whether to bring back its indoor mask mandate.

Solano County has been an outlier throughout much of the pandemic and recently decided not to join other Bay Area counties in requiring masks indoors for everyone.

Without such county guidance, cities are forced to make up their own rules, and that’s what the City Council of Benicia will be considering next week.

The council may bring back the indoor mask mandate that ended in June.

And if it does so, it will be taking action the County Health Director is against.

Lots of people are currently donning masks voluntarily in Benicia.

Masks are not currently required, even indoors, because the county health director has gone on the record saying the data doesn’t support it, and it could be bad for business.

But Benicia may go ahead and make it a requirement anyway.

“I think the majority of the council, I guess we’ll see, but I think the majority of the community is of the opinion that the direction the county is taking is not necessarily in the long-term health and safety interest of our community,” said Benicia Mayor, Steve Young.

Benicia dropped its indoor mask mandate in June when the state opened up and Covid appeared to be on its way out.

The Delta variant, however, is prompting a potential pivot.

The council will decide Tuesday whether to be the first city in its county to reprise an indoor mask mandate in public spaces, like retail and restaurant, a move already made at the county level in most of the Bay Area.

A business owner says a uniform policy in Benicia would make things easier on establishments that can only put up recommendation signs they really can’t enforce.

“It is what it is. I mean, you really can’t. We just have to trust people. That’s really all we can do,” said Cecilia Climaco, owner of Succulents and More.

A recent cancer survivor says she’s onboard with her city joining the majority of the Bay Area.

“I think since most of the Bay Area is requiring it we ought to too,” said Margaret Linderman.

Another resident also supports the city mandating masks, but doesn’t take issue with different places doing their own thing.

“I think because different areas have different problems with Covid, so I think it should be up to each city to make their own rules,” said Alicia Gallagher.

The Mayor says it’s potentially unsafe to have unmasked, unvaccinated people interacting closely indoors with workers that really don’t have a choice.

It’s also unfortunate, he says, that cities and counties are again having to consider requiring behaviors people could well do on their own.

It’s personally frustrating because if everybody had been vaccinated, if everybody was wearing a mask, we wouldn’t be here, but that’s clearly not the case,” said Mayor Young.

The City Council will vote on the ordinance at their meeting Tuesday and need just three of five members to approve.

The Mayor says the Health Director will be phoning-in to argue against approval.

If passed, the mandate would be temporary, perhaps 90 days, but could also be extended or rescinded sooner, all depending on what the Delta variant is doing.