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Mount Shasta city councilors discuss mask mandate

Kelsey Shelton

Mount Shasta city councilors held a lengthy discussion Monday evening regarding the state’s mandate to wear a mask, and whether or not enforcement is necessary to ensure compliance in city limits.

Councilors looked to the public for their input on the subject, and spoke about their own feelings. In the end, no type of enforcement was decided upon.

“Obviously this is a topic that evokes a lot of strong feelings and different perspectives,” said councilor Jeffrey Collings. He said he didn’t feel enforcement was necessary, but added that wearing masks is a good idea to lower the risk of community spread.

Multiple citizens spoke out against any type of mask enforcement, claiming not only is it a constitutional right to not wear a mask, but there could also be legal ramifications with forcing people to wear them.

“Most of you understand that there is a wide protest of masks nationwide,” said Mount Shasta resident Jeff Hutz. “The mandate is specifically worded to say voluntary, not to be a rule to follow.”

Hutz went on to say, “there’s no reason for anyone to wear masks, and there’s no reason for the city to create a mandate. If you do, there are a large number of people in the community who will not follow.”

Peggy, a healthcare worker in Mount Shasta, felt differently. “Fortunately in Siskiyou County, no one has died, but people have been admitted to the hospital. I don’t know what the right answer is, but it is important that we come together and work as a community to prove that we will not exponentially grow and turn into a massive spread of COVID-19.”

Councilor Paul Engstrom agreed with this sentiment, stating that he wears a mask, and doesn’t look at it as feeling “controlled.” He also noted that it’s about respect for yourself and others.

“I’m irritated with the lack of respect for other people,” said Engstrom. “If there’s a one in a million chance I could infect someone, I will wear a mask.”

Dr. Deborah Higer of Mount Shasta noted that research says it helps to prevent transmission.

“We’re doubling cases regularly, this is not a joke. There are many places that don’t even have enough beds or ventilators, including Siskiyou County.”

“There’s a simple way to look at it: there’s people who die of everything, but from March 15 to May 9 an extra hundred thousand people died. The bottom line is that those extra hundred thousand people died of something, odds are it’s COVID,” said Collings. “We need to figure out a way to figure this out as a town. I know it’s real, the act of wearing a mask is something you can do to decrease the spread.”

Mayor John Stackfleth noted signage in storefronts that encourage mask wearing.

“I go around town and the county, and I am surprised by the level of compliance ... from an employee and staff side, compliance is high, and if masks are not worn, it is because there is a shield or barrier to help the situation.”

Stackfleth said he feels it’s up to businesses to enforce the wearing of face coverings and pointed to Mount Shasta Supermarket and Berryvale that have with extra signage or employee enforcement at the door.

Councilor Barbara Wagner brought up CodeRed Alerts, and asked if it would be appropriate to send out information regarding mandate changes, or further enforcement updates.

City manager Bruce Pope said CodeRed was not the correct way to reach the public.

“The best way to get information out is through a resolution,” said Pope.

Councilor John Redmond believes the mask argument has gotten out of control. “We had a chance to come together as a nation, but it’s starting to turn into a Jerry Springer show,” he said.

Redmond believes that while inconvenient, masks should be worn when in areas where social distancing isn’t possible.

“We are given an oath to uphold state law,” said Wagner. “We are the leaders as city council ... who encourage the community to do the right thing. It’s up to us to send out a message stating that this is a public health issue, it is real, and we need to follow the mandate.”