Mask mandate continues to be an issue on Catalina going into Fourth of July weekend

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Avalon isn’t shutting down, but local officials will be doing what they can to encourage the public to wear face coverings.

Although there was a brief discussion this week about imposing fines on people who don’t wear masks among City Council members, the council has not yet directed the imposition of fines. (LA County apparently allows a fine up to $1,000.)

That’s the good news.

The bad news: COVID-19 cases appear to be increasing in California generally and in Los Angeles County in particular.

As of June 30, according to the Catalina Island Medical Center website, 166 antigen tests had been performed, of which eight were positive. The county has temporarily closed beaches and beach access points. Businesses may still opoerate on the pier.

Antigen tests are one of two types of tests used to diagnose COVID-19, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Here on Catalina Island, the city of Avalon will still give out awards for best decorated homes and businesses.

The dinghy parade was still scheduled at the local yacht club.

The Fourth of July golf cart parade has been cancelled.

No fireworks—the city already made that decision. Los Angeles County recently issued a health officer order that included a ban on fireworks displays.

After a long discussion about residents and visitors being unwilling to comply with the public face covering mandate, the council this week directed staff to enforce the mask requirements, preferably in a kinder and gentler manner rather than by emphasizing punishment.

The city manager will update the council on how that direction was implemented at the next council meeting, set for July 7.

Hospital update

Jason Paret, CEO of Catalina Island Medical Center, provided the council with an udpate on testing.

Initially Avalon had two cashes. Recently, he said, the Island has had six new cases in the past couple of weeks. He asked the public to call the CIMC before scheduling a test. The hospital is expected to get a machine that will make same day testing possible.

According to Paret, due to increased cases on the mainland, it is taking up to seven days turnaround for test results. He said the hospital has no control over that.

If people have questions about COVID, Paret encourged the public to visit the Catalina Island Medical Center website (cimedicalcenter.org).

Councilmember Michael Ponce said you have to remember that this is an island with a small medical facility that was never meant to handle what’s going on.

Parmer, city LA County data, said last weekend 54% of bars and 44% of restaurants found workers were not wearing face masks and face shields.

County restrictions

Assistant City Manager Michael Parmer updated the council on the county’s June 28 County Health Officer Order.

According to Parmer, forward progress on reopening has been put on pause pretty much statewide.

Parmer said that under direct order of Gov. Gavin Newsom, the county has recinded reopenis of bars, tasting rooms, etc.

Parmer reported beaches, including Middle and South Beach, are temporarily closed from 12:01 a.m., July 1 to 5 a.m., Monday, July 6.

Parmer said offials don’t want to see people gathering, fishing or wading.

The county continues to prohibit gatherings of members of multiple households indoors or outdoors, according to Parmer.

He said that according to the county, more than 500,000 people visited bars and nightclubs.

He said the county has seen a 40% increase of cases among people 18 to 24 years old.

Business reopening protocols are available on the city website.

Parmer also told the council that staff was working with County Supervisor Janice Hahn’s office to get a contact tracer for Avalon.

Mask issue

The mask mandate, which some members of the public object to, has been an issue on the Island as well as the mainland.

“Our biggest challenge is having people comply with the LA County Health Department’s order and the Governor’s order by wearing a face covering when around others that are not their family members,” wrote Capt. John Hocking in an email this week. Hocking is commander of the Avalon Sheriff’s Station.

“It is an ongoing battle and all we are doing is trying to keep them safe and healthy,” Hocking wrote.

“Having the bars closed the past few days has not had a noticeable impact on Avalon Sheriff’s Station,” Hocking wrote.

“Trying to enforce the beach closure on 4th of July weekend will be a challenge, but we will do the best we can to keep the island safe and healthy. We are asking for the Avalon residents’ to help by not going to Pebbly Beach over the weekend,” Hocking wrote.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Councilmember Cinde Macgugan Cassidy asked who is really policing the mask requirements.

“Nobody really has any authority except the Sheriff’s Department,” she said.

“The number one complaint that we have is people not wearing a face covering,” she said.

She described wearing face coverings as the easiest thing anyone could do to make all of this better.

“How do we get people to wear face coverings?” she asked.

Councilmember Lisa Lavelle suggested issuing a ticket. She proposed a first offense “fix it ticket” with a $25 to $50 and then a $1,000 enforceable fine.

“It’s been three months,” she said. She said that if you haven’t learned by now to wear a mask, you’re not going to learn unless the city does something that says you have to learn.

During the public comment segment of the meeting, several members of the public ojbected to a $1,000 fine. As of this week, the city has not yet imposed such a fine.

Councilmember Michael Ponce expressed frustration with visitors who come to the Island but do not wear masks.

“Just put a damn mask on,” Ponce said.

“I’ve been so frustrated when this is so easy,” Ponce said.

Lavelle said the Catalina Express and Vons have had issues with people refusing to wear masks.

“A lot of it comes down to liability,” Hocking said. He pointed out that a confrontation could result.

Hocking said that in Avalon, you hae to wear a face mask if you are or could be in contact with people who are not your family.

Ponce returned to the enforcement issue, arguing that Avalon has to put teeth in its rules.

“It’s our house, it’s our rules,” he said.

Lavelle said she thought residents and vsitors alike who are at fault.

Hocking pointed out that there is a lot of hatred of law enforcement right now, refering to the matter of having deputies enforce the mask mandate. He said it was not coming from the Avalon community.

Cassidy said she has often seen the Catalina Express crew ask the same people over and over again to put on masks. Cassidy said she has aske dpeole in her store to put on the mask. They do so, walk 20 feet away and take off the mask.

Mayor Anni Marshall said it was not just the visitors but also the residents who are not putting on the masks.

Businessman and past council member Bob Kennedy said that if businesses stop serving people who aren’t wearing masks, they will get the message.

Councilmemer Lavelle and members of the proposed an emphasis on positive reinforcement.

The council took no action on the matter, but gave direction to staff to address the mask issue.

City Manager Denise Radde indicated to the the council that staff would brainstorm a gentler way to enforce the mask mandate over the Fourth of July weekend.

Mask mandate continues to be an issue on Catalina going into Fourth of July weekend