STOCKTON, Calif. — Update:
Stockton City Council voted down a mandatory mask policy for the city. The vote was six to one with Mayor Michael Tubbs voting in the affirmative.
The decision followed lengthy council discussion and a marathon of public comments, with supporters and opposition to the policy.
The policy would have had Stocktonians don masks when in public establishments, however, there would have been some exceptions, for example those with medical conditions.
Mayor Tubbs pushed the item as Stockton and San Joaquin County landed on a state watch list due to an increase in coronavirus cases. To adhere to the state’s variance, San Joaquin County has to have 190 or less new cases in 14 days. Since May 25, the county far surpassed that number with 352 additional cases.
The increase in cases could mean backtracking on the county’s reopening, and Tubbs pushed the matter to council to avoid a second round of shutdowns for businesses, hoping a mandatory mask policy could help slow the spread of the virus.
A nurse, wife and mother of two, Lauren Thurling is not a supporter of wearing a mask in public.
"I never wear a mask anywhere I go. Neither do my kids, and they've been perfectly healthy and so have I," says Thurling.
But, homemaker and mother of two Molly McKay says "yes" to masks when entering stores and businesses.
"Yeah, that's fine, because the coronavirus is still out there," said McKay.
Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs is behind the proposal to make face coverings mandatory when entering a public building.
He wants the proposal on the books as soon as possible.
"And if you look at my emails, my phone calls. Everyday I get phone calls from everyone, but particularly from seniors who are terrified when they go out in public and no one's wearing masks as if Covid-19 is over," said Tubbs.
Recently, the number of cases for the coronavirus have soared in San Joaquin County, giving mask advocates ammunition for making them mandatory.
Hospitalizations have been climbing for weeks. Now, the county has been flagged by the state for increasing too fast.
State data shows San Joaquin County does not have enough ICU beds available either. The county is now on the state's watch list.
According to the county public health department, there have been 366 new cases of coronavirus in the past 14 days. That's nearly 47 cases per 100,000 people.
In order to maintain the state's variance to continue the county's reopening, the numbers need to be less than 25 cases per 100,000 and no more than 190 cases in a 14-day period.
Speaking before the county Board of Supervisors today, health officer Dr. Maggie Park says masks are important in stopping the spread of the virus, but it is not easy to make wearing them mandatory.
"From the standpoint of making it an order, it's very difficult because there are still some that find it highly controversial," said Park.
During her presentation before the board of supervisors, Park added that, if the number of coronavirus cases continue to climb, businesses now open may have to close again.
Park says the county health department plans on launching a massive campaign promoting the use of face coverings to stop COVID-19.
If the Stockton City Council gives the okay to the mask proposal, it would go into effect tomorrow.
As part of the ordinance, businesses can refuse customers who do not wear a face covering.
Face coverings would also be provided to workers without charge.