On Tuesday, April 21 Fullerton City Council voted 3-2 to require both employees and customers of retail businesses to wear cloth face coverings to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. This was an enhancement of the County of Orange’s recent mandate for face coverings at certain essential businesses. The ordinance is effective beginning April 24.
Per the County order, and the Fullerton addition, all employees and customers of any grocery store, pharmacy/drug store, convenience store, gas station, restaurant, food preparation establishment, banking establishment, or retail store in Fullerton who may have contact with the public must wear a cloth face covering while at work, or while shopping.
The addition of banking establishments includes only those that do not have a physical barrier system (i.e., Plexiglas) between employees and customers.
Members of the public were able to submit e-comments to council prior to their vote. Of those who submitted comments on this item, 37 were in favor of the new mandate, and 5 were opposed.
Mayor Pro Tem Jan Flory, Councilmember Ahmad Zahra, and Councilmember Jesus Silva voted for the new mandate, and Mayor Jennifer Fitzgerald and Councilmember Bruce Whitaker voted against it.
“This is about really protecting our employees and making sure that when there is contact, there is some level of protection,” Zahra said. “Because if someone is not wearing their mask and they are asymptomatic they are bringing the virus into the store. Especially in dense areas, it’s essential that we maintain that protection.”
“According to the e-mails and calls we’ve received, I would say the majority of Fullertonians want to implement this,” Councilmember Silva said, who said he had seen people shopping without wearing masks.
“I would say 8 out of 10 people in the grocery stores these days are wearing masks but there’s always that 2 out of 10 that are not and they seem to take great pride in that,” Mayor Protem Flory said. “And that’s okay if they’re in their backyard but when they’re in a grocery store and the pharmacy and they’re bumping up against clerks who have to be there, then I say we should err on the side of caution.”
Mayor Jennifer Fitzgerald, who voted against the order, said “I’m not going to mandate what businesses insist their patrons do. I believe consumers can make those choices on their own. I know when I go out to a grocery store or to deliver groceries for someone else, I wear a mask. I should assume that I’m asymptomatic…but I think that we all need to have that personal responsibility to make those decisions.”
Coucilmember Bruce Whitaker also voted against the order.
“In our free market system, as consumers we can always vote with our feet,” Whitaker said. “I think we could support charitable efforts to provide more masks or protective equipment for those smaller businesses who are less able to afford some of those costs, and to try to provide a helping hand rather than that stick [of a mandate].”
Councilmember Zahra replied that he was recently able to secure 2,000 masks, a donation from a California manufacturer, that will go to businesses that can’t afford to provide masks for their employees.
“If we do not protect grocery checkers, for example, from people who come in who may be asymptomatic, who are breathing all over them, who are handing all the fruits and vegetables and cans and everyone else, we’re not the ones who are going to bear the brunt of that decision. It is going to be some minimum wage grocery store clerk that’s going to bear the brunt of it, and I’m not willing to take that chance,” Mayor Protem Flory said.
All residents of the City are strongly encouraged, but not required, to wear face coverings whenever leaving their homes and to continue to frequently wash their hands, practice social distancing, and stay at home if sick.
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