Officials in Beverly Hills will not use city resources to enforce an indoor mask mandate if the Los Angeles County Public Health Department decides to issue one.
Beverly Hills Mayor Lili Bosse called a special meeting Monday evening to discuss the possibility of renewed L.A. County mask rules, which public health officials said they plan to issue Friday unless COVID-19 case and hospitalization rates improve significantly. The council, led by Bosse, voted unanimously not to deploy city staff or resources to enforce an indoor mask mandate, as Beverly Hills did for almost a year starting in the summer of 2020.
“I feel it is our job to lead, and I support the power of choice,” Bosse said in a statement. “Our job is to be proactive and public about what we believe. This is a united City Council and community that cares about health. We are not where we were in 2020, and now we need to move forward as a community and be part of the solution.”
Beverly Hills officials provided "substantial additional resources" for education and enforcement of the first indoor mask mandate, effective from July 2020 through June 2021, including diverting city staff to monitoring efforts, according to the council's agenda.
For 11 months, Beverly Hills city staff and contract workers — including public works, police and park ranger employees — had almost 55,000 contacts with the public or businesses about issues related to masks, the agenda said. Employees issued almost 200 citations related to people not wearing masks.
The possible renewed mandate would apply to anyone age 2 or older at a variety of indoor establishments, including shared office space, manufacturing and retail settings, event spaces, restaurants and bars, gyms and yoga studios, educational settings and children’s programs.
L.A. County officials set the criteria for the health order months ago, saying they would reissue an indoor masking rule should the region move into the “high” COVID-19 community level, as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and remain there for two consecutive weeks. The county has been in that high category, based on case and hospitalization rates, for the last two weeks, fueled by a surge in transmission by the ultra-contagious Omicron subvariants.
But L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer late last week said the county could hold off on a mandate if transmission shows pronounced signs of slowing. The department is poised to announce a decision on the mask mandate Thursday.
Beverly Hills leaders mentioned Monday that they are "researching the requirements for the city to form its own health department." For now, the city remains subject to orders from the L.A. County Department of Public Health.
In a statement, the Department of Public Health did not respond to Monday's decision from Beverly Hills but thanked the City Council "for the support and assistance it has provided to protect the health of the public during this COVID-19 pandemic."
"If the universal indoor mask requirement does return, Public Health will continue to inform local officials of the current status of COVID-19 and the safety recommendations and requirements," the statement said. "COVID-19 continues to be a leading cause of death in the county. This year, COVID-19 alone has claimed more than 4,000 lives in Los Angeles County, higher than the six-month average total of deaths from drug overdoses, influenza (during a pre-pandemic year) and motor vehicle accidents combined."
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.