Masked shoppers

One year ago, Monterey County Health Officer Edward Moreno ordered that all residents wear masks in public to stop the spread of Covid-19. Last Friday, April 23, he terminated that order, in light of the state's new guidance that allows fully vaccinated people to go mask-less outdoors, as long as conditions aren't crowded, and gather with other vaccinated people indoors without masks.

All Monterey County residents and visitors are required to follow the California Department of Public Health guidelines that went into effect on April 15, according to Moreno's new order.

To be "fully vaccinated" means either two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines plus two weeks, or two weeks after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

People who are fully vaccinated may gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people without a mask, or with unvaccinated people as long as none of them are at increased risk of severe illness with Covid-19.

Fully vaccinated people may also go without a mask outdoors, provided they can maintain six feet of distance between others not in their household. If they cannot maintain distance, the masks must go on.

Last summer, numerous cities enacted mask orders with fines attached for people not wearing masks in public after numerous problems and complaints. There were clashes between people refusing to wear masks and employees of businesses, or business owners who refused to comply. There were also repeated complaints from residents about mask-less visitors crowding popular destinations on weekends.

The first city to enact an emergency order was Monterey, just days ahead of the Fourth of July weekend. The order came with $100 fines for the first offense. Other cities followed suit. 

The state's new guidance will likely make enforcing those orders more difficult, except for crowded situations and indoors. Monterey Assistant City Manager Nat Rojanasathira told reporters during a briefing today that the state's guidance would make it a challenge to enforce the city's order, but that more research was needed.

It's likely the city will take down signs about the mask order and $100 fines from high-traffic visitor areas, he said. The city will continue its "Masks on, Sleeves Up" campaign on social media and elsewhere reminding people to keep wearing masks and get vaccinate.

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