Pismo Beach City Council to consider face mask requirement

face masks in pismo.PNG
Posted at 5:48 PM, May 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-07 13:04:14-04

Sun, sand and face masks could be the new normal in Pismo Beach.

On Tuesday night, the Pismo Beach City Council voted to have the first reading of an ordinance that would require workers and customers in what the city considers essential businesses to wear a face-covering "while indoors in an area open to the public or while waiting to patronize businesses whether indoors or outdoors."

The city considers places like healthcare facilities, grocery stores, and gas stations to be essential businesses.

Mayor Ed Waage, a dissenting vote, says he'd like to leave decisions like these up to the county.

"The county's guidance thus far is sufficient because it's worked. They say we've had a very low infection rate in this county, very low hospitalization rates, and Dr. Borenstein has done a great job of protecting us thus far," Waage explained.

For Joanne Currie, co-owner of the Splash Cafe, her concerns with the ordinance are more logistical.

"So you're putting your employees - like mine are anywhere from age 17-21 - you're putting them in the position of kind of being police officers in a sense. Having to police this is already pretty hard with trying to get people to stand apart," Currie said.

While Currie has now ordered a thousand face masks to have on hand just in case the ordinance does pass, she questions how other small business owners will be able to afford the added expense of extra masks and potentially losing money by turning people away.

"I think there's the possibility of our tourist base being hit with negativity. They'll be angry and we'll have confrontations and negativity. I just want Pismo to be the great place that is it," Currie said.

Other workers on the frontlines see it differently.

Lori Ralls, a sales clerk at the Vons in Grover Beach, said during public comment Tuesday night's city council meeting, "My colleagues and most frontline workers are proud to serve our community but many of us are afraid; primarily those of us who have unmasked customers 2-3 feet from our face all day long. We want to go home healthy, too, and some of us have vulnerable family members. We're asking you to use your authority to protect us now."

The second reading of this ordinance is anticipated May 19 and if approved, it could go into effect in June.

Business owners who don't enforce the face-covering rule could be subject to an administrative penalty.

The city did not want to comment on whether waiting for enforcement until June was too late to help flatten the curve.

San Luis Obispo County has previously recommended everyone wear a face mask when social distancing isn't possible. It's unclear at this time if the county will be requiring masks as part of the phased reopening plan.