SANTA ANA (CBSLA) — Face masks are no longer required in Orange County although health officials still strongly recommend people wear them.
The modification was announced Thursday afternoon, days after Orange County’s chief health officer Dr. Nichole Quick resigned following criticism over the mask requirement.
Quick resigned on Monday night after she had been facing threats and protests at her home due to her health guidelines that required O.C. residents to wear face coverings in public whenever they cannot maintain six feet of physical distancing.
Quick was temporary replaced by O.C. Health Care Agency Director Dr. Clayton Chau, who was expected to put a new order in place, making wearing face coverings “strongly recommended” rather than required, with some exceptions.
In Costa Mesa on Thursday, most businesses still required face coverings. However, many did not wear them outside.
“I came down here for a dentist appointment, and I thought I’d take stroll,” says Heather Noel Aldridge, who did opt to wear a mask. “I see nobody wearing masks. It’s like, “Yeah, business as usual.’ It’s like use your brain.”
Some said that, although face masks are no longer required, the new order that “strongly recommends” them could actually encourage more people to comply.
“I think just the wordage, making it highly recommended, might make people wear it more because they aren’t feeling forced to wear it like they did before,” said Brittany Frisch. “Sometimes you want to be defiant and not do what your told.”
In certain places around the city, the policy is no mask no service. Some stores hand out masks to customers, only to have them thrown out as soon as they leave.
Mandatory or not, Eric Williamson said he would continue to wear his mask.
“When people say ‘strongly recommended,’ they tend to take a lot more leniency with it,” he said. “If we get more lenient with it, then we’re messing ourselves up for a second wave.”
Others were glad there was a change in policy, but Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia was not one of them, calling the move “completely irresponsible.”
“What happens in Long Beach affects Orange County and what happens in Orange County affects Long Beach,” he said. “We are neighbors, and I worry about seniors that are vulnerable in not just their community, but our community as well.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommends face coverings for “people older than 2 years of age in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.” The exemption includes people younger than 2 years old and “anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.”
Orange County health officials reported four new coronavirus deaths Thursday bringing the county’s total to 202.