Huntington Beach, a conservative city in California, has voted to ban universal mask and vaccine mandates for COVID-19. The city council passed the resolution on Wednesday, September 7, 2023, with a narrow 4-3 vote. The ban will apply to city officials and not private businesses.
The resolution was introduced by Mayor Pro Tem Gracey Van Der Mark, who said that mask mandates imposed in the city “unnecessarily limited the freedoms of the citizens of Huntington Beach — even those who were not around anyone who tested positive for COVID-19 or at risk of any exposure.”
The ban comes amid a slight uptick in COVID-19 cases in the city and across the county. According to data from the Orange County Health Care Agency, COVID-19 cases have increased in Orange County recently, but hospitalizations have not risen. People were encouraged to wear “a well-fitting mask in crowded indoor spaces” to prevent a possible spike in hospitalizations.
On Wednesday, the Huntington Beach City Council had a close vote, and they decided to make a statement saying they won’t allow rules that make everyone wear masks or get COVID-19 vaccines in the city:
Southern California taking a STAND…📢📢📢
HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. – The Huntington Beach City Council narrowly voted Wednesday to approve a declaration to ban universal mask and COVID-19 vaccine mandates in the city.
The declaration passed with a 4-3 vote. The meeting… pic.twitter.com/2s7mZ4qTQJ
— AɯƙɯαɾԃMαɱα™® (@Aspiemama_107) September 7, 2023
Huntington Beach, located about an hour south of Los Angeles, has been largely defiant of statewide mask mandates throughout the pandemic, running contrary to the state’s strict measures. The city has also been a bastion of conservatism for decades, with a Republican-led city council that was elected in November 2020.
The Huntington Beach ban on COVID-19 masks and vaccines is not the only one in the country. Several states, such as Florida, Texas, and Arizona, have also prohibited mask and vaccine mandates by local governments and schools. However, some of these bans have faced legal challenges and opposition from health officials and educators.
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The debate over mask and vaccine mandates has intensified as the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus continues to spread across the nation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask indoors in areas with high or substantial transmission of COVID-19.
The Biden administration has also announced a new plan to combat the pandemic, which includes requiring federal workers and contractors to get vaccinated or face regular testing, mandating vaccinations for healthcare workers at Medicare and Medicaid facilities, and calling on large employers to require vaccinations or testing for their workers.
However, some Republican lawmakers have criticized the plan as an overreach of federal power and a violation of personal freedom. Some have also introduced legislation to prevent new mask mandates. For example, Sens. J.D. Vance (R-OH), Mike Braun (R-IN), and Josh Hawley (R-MO) introduced the “Freedom to Breathe Act” on Tuesday, which would prohibit certain industries from denying service to people who are not wearing a mask.
The issue of mask and vaccine mandates is likely to remain contentious and divisive as the pandemic persists. While some people see them as necessary measures to protect public health and save lives, others see them as infringements on individual rights and choices.