Coachella and Cathedral City vote to mandate face coverings

Kailyn Brown
Protesters enter the County Administrative Center for a Riverside County Board of Supervisors meeting last week.  (Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

Coachella and Cathedral City officials voted Wednesday to require residents to wear face coverings in certain public settings, joining such other Riverside County cities as Desert Hot Springs, Palm Springs and La Quinta.

The regulation comes less than a week after the Riverside County Board of Supervisors voted to rescind several public health orders implemented by the county’s public health director Cameron Kaiser. Following the vote, face coverings were no longer a requirement but were “strongly recommended whenever practical and within reason.”

Though the county rescinded this order, individual cities can impose stricter regulations, just not more relaxed ones, according to Coachella spokesperson Chris Parman.

“Unfortunately, Coachella and the rest of the eastern valley remains a hot spot for coronavirus cases,” Mayor Steven Hernandez said. “Until we can get this virus under control, our city will continue to require these reasonable measures to protect the health and safety of people living and working in Coachella.”

Coachella’s ordinance says businesses must require employees and customers to wear masks. Businesses are also required to post signage to inform customers of the policy and refuse service to those who do not comply. Officials said the ordinance will remain in effect until modified or suspended by the City Council, director of Emergency Services or any county, state or federal declaration.

The ordinance does not apply to children under 2 and those who have a note from a medical professional advising them not to wear a mask.

Residents are not required to wear a mask while at home or in vehicles alone or with others living in their household, officials said. People also do not have to wear a mask outdoors when walking, hiking, running or bicycling provided they remain at least six feet from others.

Coachella’s ordinance also requires residents to practice social distancing while in public.

Cathedral City’s order instructs businesses to deny access to those not wearing masks. The mandate, which was approved in a 4 to 1 vote, will be in place until June 19 unless extended, officials said.

“It makes sense for the city at this point to mandate this and it also takes that burden off of individual businesses where you might have a worker who does not feel comfortable that people are coming in without masks,” Mayor Pro Tem Raymond Gregory said. “I think it’s up to the city to set these types of guidelines.”

Fourth District Councilmember Ernesto M. Gutierrez disagreed with his colleagues.

"I do not believe in wearing face masks," he said. "Having said that, I believe that we should go along with what the county supervisors enacted last Friday."

As of Thursday afternoon, there were 5,440 coronavirus cases in Riverside County, records show. A total of 235 people have died, which is seven more than yesterday. Officials said 3,245 residents have recovered from the virus and nearly 79,000 have been tested.