Mask wearing orders in effect everywhere, like it or not |

Mask wearing orders in effect everywhere, like it or not

Cheyanne Neuffer

“The mask thing isn’t fun for a solid eight hour shift, but wearing a mask is the ultimate act of love for people you don’t even know,” said Lela Sims who is a restaurant manager in Heavenly Village.

On Thursday, June 18, California Gov. Gavin Newson made a statewide order for masks or coverings to be worn in most indoor and outdoor settings where social distancing isn’t possible. The order followed California’s reopening of dine-in restaurants, salons, and churches to name a few.

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Wednesday, June 24, that masks are now required in public spaces as well after a significant increase in coronavirus cases.

While there are guidelines in place, the order makes wearing face coverings mandatory for both employees and customers at restaurants, stores, and other businesses

Previously, local governments were able to decide whether masks are mandatory.

“Science shows that face coverings and masks work,” Newsom said in a press release. “They are critical to keeping those who are around you safe, keeping businesses open and restarting our economy.”

Masks have been a controversial topic for many who don’t believe they should be forced to wear them. The mandates give standardized policies for each state.

How the mask order will be enforced is still a grey area. Sgt. Anthony Prencipe of El Dorado Sheriff’s Department said they will not be enforcing the order with arrests or citations.

Sims works at a busy restaurant who she says has been good about implementing safety measures for employees and customers. She said this last weekend felt almost as busy as Fourth of July weekend in Heavenly Village. The restaurant has required employees to wear masks since reopening. Sims says if customers wear a mask at all, they remove it right when they sit down.

One of the restaurants in the village, Gunbarrel Tavern and Eatery, has placed a sign out front that reads “NO MASK NO SERVICE.”

Sims thinks every restaurant should have one of those signs. “It’s so disappointing to me how few people are wearing them,” Sims said. “There should be signs at all entrances as there is no way to stay 6 feet apart.” It is evident that Tahoe’s busy season has arrived, even during a pandemic. Popular beaches and restaurants have been packed with people.

Sims says it makes her nervous going to work when only employees are required to wear masks, “Like more anxiety than I’ve ever felt in my entire life.”

While the mandate went into effect, several grocery stores around the basin say that they don’t necessarily have requirements in place yet for the mask order.

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and Tahoe Resource Conservation District will be requiring face coverings to be worn by boaters during boat inspections when they are outside their vehicles.

“One of our biggest concerns is watercraft inspection workers are in a line of fire so to speak,” said Jeff Cowen, Public Information Officer for TRPA. “It takes a lot for them to feel comfortable coming to work.”

Cowen explained that the watercraft inspectors are exposed to thousands of visitors especially on big weekends. The upcoming Fourth of July lands on a Saturday which Cowen says will likely draw tons of visitors. He said there could be many people coming from places with high COVID-19 cases.

TRPA employees are required to wear masks in the office and out in the field.

He said, “We are trying to get as many visitors to the Tahoe Basin to comply with face coverings.”

Cowen says this will keep people and families safe and keep services up and running. Boat inspections are by appointment only through July 1.

TRPA has been gathering recreation site managers from around the basin to discuss the general concern regarding visitors not wearing face coverings and to identify solutions during weekly meetings with a mission to keep areas open and keep recreationists safe. Some include State Parks, Forest Service, county, city, Public Utility District managers and visitors authorities.

He says that the TRPA is grateful that Gov. Newson placed the mask order for all of California.

“The Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit supports following California and Nevada and Center for Disease Control guidelines on face coverings and maintaining social distance,” said Lisa Herron, public affairs specialist, in an email.

The CDC website says masks (N95 masks specifically) can function within their design specifications for eight hours of continuous or intermittent use. The CDC says the safety of continuous mask use relies more on how the mask is being used regarding hygiene, practical concerns such as restroom use and meals breaks rather than solely duration.

Carla Hass, director of communications and outreach for El Dorado County, said there is no problem with wearing a mask for an extended period of time, “Doctors and nurses do it all the time.”

She said the county wants to make sure people are wearing the masks properly by ensuring the covering covers the nose and mouth. While N95s do provide extra protection, Hass said they are not necessary for people doing regular business. Bandanas, scarfs or anything made of cloth could work. The face covers should be washed daily.

Hass said that as science and data continue to unravel new information about COVID-19, that El Dorado County supports the mandatory mask order. She says that masks are especially important now that more people are going out and traveling.

“Wearing a mask is less for you and more about the people you encounter,” Hass said. “A high percentage of people are asymptomatic, this helps you prevent spreading unknowingly.”

“Evidence shows face covering reduces the spread of COVID-19, slowing the rate of community transmission and helping to keep local health resources from being overwhelmed,” said Dr. Clint Purvance, President and CEO of Barton Heath. “Barton Health supports required masking and strongly recommends following the state order of wearing a face covering in public indoor and outdoor settings, especially where a six-foot distance cannot be maintained from others.”

According to current testing data, one in every four patients positive for COVID-19 in this community are asymptomatic patients.

Purvance said, “Because people can be infected and not have symptoms, wearing a face mask when outside the home prevents those who do not know they’re sick from transmitting the coronavirus to others.”

He explained that while the increased cases have been within the threshold for the state and county, for the area to remain open and to not have Stage 3 operations reversed, local infection rates must remain stable.

Purvance said, “masking and social distancing are important factors to mitigate spread and will help more businesses reopen and stay open.”

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