Orange County

Orange County Group Calls for Reinstatement of Mask Mandate

Last week was Orange County's deadliest since the pandemic began with 36 fatalities from June 6 to Friday, and another 11 deaths Saturday and Sunday.

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Orange County union, faith and business leaders will call Tuesday for a reinstatement of a mask mandate that was rolled back to a "strong recommendation'' last week.

The Orange County Labor Federation, an umbrella group that represents about 90 local unions, is teaming up with religious and business leaders, will call on county officials to reinstate the mandatory mask rule.

Dr. Nichole Quick, who issued the mask mandate last month as the county's chief health officer, abruptly resigned a week ago following threats and a protest in front of her home as well as resistance from two Orange County supervisors.

Dr. Clayton Chau, the Health Care Agency director who also took on the job of interim public health officer from Quick, rolled it back to a "strong recommendation'' to wear masks when residents cannot maintain six feet of physical distancing.

Additional reopenings in Orange County coincide with deadliest week of COVID-19 so far. Vikki Vargas reports for the NBC4 News on Friday, June 12, 2020.

The union leaders in a news release stressed the recent statistics, which include an uptick in hospitalizations and deaths in the past week, as a reason for requiring face coverings.

The county still mandates face coverings in food preparation and sales businesses and pharmacies. That ordinance was adopted by the Board of Supervisors in April. Quick's mandate extended it to other businesses.

Supervisor Andrew Do proposed the face covering law in April and was the first on the board to advocate for face coverings in April. But Do criticized the union leaders' efforts.

"If they have a real problem, why not take it up with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the California Department of Public Health,'' which do not require masks, but recommends them.

"I think people are trying to make a political stand as opposed to one for health reasons,'' Do told City News Service.

Do said the group ought to lobby Gov. Gavin Newsom instead of the Board of Supervisors.

Seven Anaheim firefighters are battling COVID-19. One of them is fighting for his life. Vikki Vargas reports for the NBC4 News on Monday, June 15, 2020.

Orange County Labor Federation spokesman Luis Aleman said the group does not have a political agenda.

"We're saying let's put safety first and put politics aside,'' Aleman told City News Service. "For us it's not a partisan issue, it's a public health issue.''

Union leaders are concerned that a spike in cases will lead to another state-ordered shutdown, which could affect their jobs as well as the health of their members, Aleman said.

The union group is also concerned about criticism of public health officials like Quick.

"Let's not undermine the credibility of our public health officers,'' Aleman said. "They have to support public health first, but they also have to respond to (political) pressure.''

Last week was Orange County's deadliest since the pandemic began with 36 fatalities from June 6 to Friday, and another 11 deaths Saturday and Sunday.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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