Supervisors urge residents to direct mask wearing complaints to state

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The El Dorado County Board of Supervisors last week received some angry public comments regarding mask guidelines. Some pleaded for the county’s health officer to relax the guidelines of kids wearing masks at school and some told the supervisors to ditch the masks altogether, that they were performing COVID theater.

The board trying to change the narrative issued a press release in response saying the state determines the masks guidelines and restrictions and that those not happy with the rules should contact the Governor’s Office.

“There has been significant confusion among the public about the role of County Public Health and its breadth of decision-making abilities in this pandemic,” said Board Chair John Hidahl in the release “which has led to misdirected criticism at best and verbal and physical hostility at worst toward county employees who are simply acting at the direction of the state to help ensure the health and safety of our residents.”

Individual counties have always had the discretion to make more restrictive guidelines but not take a more lenient approach to safety measures, the release said.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has set a June 15 deadline for the state to fully open its economy.

“From the beginning of this pandemic 15 months ago our county has followed the lead of the Governor’s Administration in all manner of COVID-19 restrictions and guidance,” he continued. “With a short-lived exception of a travel ban to the Tahoe Basin, we have never taken a more stringent approach to safeguarding the health of our public.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on May 13 announced recommendations that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in virtually any setting, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance. It also requires masks to be worn on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States, and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.

California’s Health & Human Services Agency Secretary, Dr. Mark Ghaly, on May 17 said the state won’t adopt the CDC’s new guidelines until June 15 for a number of reasons, including allowing more people to become fully vaccinated and providing businesses with ample time to prepare for the change.

“It’s important for the general public and specifically those demanding El Dorado County Public Health make masks optional in schools and other settings to understand we simply do not have the discretion to make those decisions,” Hidahl said. “Complaints, concerns and requests for such changes should be directed to the California Department of Public Health and the Governor’s Office where the decisions are being made.”

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