(TNS) - The city of Ventura will require masks to be worn inside businesses and government offices, on public transit and in most indoor venues that are open to the public following a 4-3 City Council vote this week.
The city manager will now draft an emergency ordinance to lay out the details of the new health order, which is modeled on a similar order in Santa Barbara, officials said.
Ventura's face-covering order will go into effect once the City Council approves the final ordinance, to be considered at a future meeting.
Face coverings "have become such a common feature that I don't even think people question it anymore," said Councilman Erik Nasarenko during the Monday night meeting. "Ultimately it's not about discomfort or inconvenience, it's about doing whatever we can in whatever way possible to limit the spread of a highly infectious and deadly disease, and if that means wearing a face covering, I think we should do it."
Nasarenko, along with Councilwomen Cheryl Heitmann, Sofia Rubalcava and Christy Weir voted in support of the order. Matt LaVere, Lorrie Brown and Jim Friedman voted no.
Ventura will become the second city in the county to require face coverings, after Ojai, which implemented an order in early April. But Ventura County does not have a countywide order that requires the use of masks.
Ventura's order will apply to anyone over age 12. Children younger than 2 are not advised to wear masks, and masks will be recommended but not required for children ages 2 to 12, according to Heather Sumagaysay, the city's public information officer.
The council received nearly 400 emails from residents before the meeting, 309 in favor of the policy and 72 in opposition.
Brown and Friedman questioned the city's ability to enforce the use of face coverings in businesses. Police Chief Darin Schindler said enforcement of the policy would not be a priority for the department.
"I would obviously put communication in front of enforcement," he said. "I just don't think it's a viable option right now to expect us to contact people for purposes of enforcing them wearing a mask. It's going to put our officers in a difficult situation especially with the current climate surrounding the use of police authority right now."
Violations of the mask order would be handled through the city's emergency action citation process, the same way that violations of other pandemic-related health orders are handled, Sumagaysay said.
She said officials plan to focus on education "to try to obtain voluntary compliance from the public." But if that doesn't work, a written warning may be issued, followed by an administrative citation.
Sumagaysay reiterated that more information will be provided once the official ordinance is drafted.
As of late Wednesday, there were 1,706 confirmed coronavirus cases in Ventura County, with 148 in the city of Ventura. Earlier this week, county officials expressed concerns about a rise in hospitalizations. There were 38 people hospitalized Wednesday, with 13 of them in intensive care, records show.
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