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By Shawn Raymundo and Collin Breaux
On Thursday, June 18, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a new order requiring Californians to wear face coverings while out in public, particularly in high-risk, crowded areas such as indoor shops, health care settings and while using public transportation.
The statewide order comes on the heels of a debate that’s brewed in Orange County over whether or not to wear masks. Health officials recommend wearing masks and taking other safety measures, including social distancing, to limit the pandemic’s spread.
Newsom’s order also came a week after Orange County had lifted its own face mask requirement amid mounting pressure from residents, as well as from some members on the OC Board of Supervisors who had questioned the need for face coverings.
On June 11, acting Orange County Health Care Agency Officer Dr. Clayton Chau announced that face coverings would only be strongly recommended but not mandatory. Chau was placed into the role following the abrupt departure of Dr. Nichole Quick, who had resigned after facing harsh backlash, and physical threats, over her order mandating that people wear face coverings. Whether people publicly wear masks in South Orange County varies; some do, most generally don’t.
A majority of people who responded to an online poll in the Orange County, CA Coronavirus COVID-19 Updates group on Facebook said they think masks should be worn in public. A group administrator created the poll after being contacted for comment by The Capistrano Dispatch.
“Bring the masks back! My mom and I are high-risk and exposed to people every day in our shop,” group member Heather Moreno said, after the county had lifted its requirement and before Newsom had issued his latest order. “We don’t have the ability to be closed, since summer is our busy time, and we need to work after being closed for over two months. It just makes sense.”
Thia Gelow, another group member, said masks are needed to prevent the spread of the virus, and it is “not right to put our seniors and immunocompromised neighbors at risk” because some people refuse to wear a mask.
Nicole Brown has a different take. Brown is an administrator for the Masks Are a Choice—Orange County group on Facebook and does not support wearing masks. Brown is skeptical of cited science, said communication can be difficult for the hearing-impaired and expressed concern that masks are part of “social conditioning” under Democrats.
“I have seen firsthand how employees are suffering due to the wearing of masks,” Brown said. “I see them remove their mask just slightly to take a breath of fresh air. I have seen them sweat profusely due to anxiety in having their face and noses covered.”
Brown also said children need to see facial expressions.
“When a child is unable to see a person’s face, they lack the understanding needed to communicate effectively,” Brown said. “Through these social cues, children learn how to conduct themselves efficiently via our social standards as a human.”
The governor’s new face covering order notes that certain individuals are exempt, including toddlers aged 2-and-under and those who have certain medical conditions whose breathing could be obstructed by wearing a face covering.
Those who have a hearing impairment or those who regularly communicate with someone who has a hearing impairment also are exempt from wearing face masks. People eating at restaurants can also remove their masks to eat or drink, “provided that they are able to maintain a distance of at least six feet away from persons who are not members of the same household or residence.”