The Beverly Hills City Council unanimously voted on April 27 to amend the ordinance requiring face coverings in response to new guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), bringing the city into alignment with county and federal rules. Once the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) releases new health orders, Beverly Hills will automatically comply with county rules.
The news of the loosening policy made its way to the Council halfway through a four-hour Special Study Session. The Council debated whether or not to act immediately or wait until the county issued an updated health order.
“People are getting mixed messages and I think the sooner we can give a message to our community, the better,” Vice Mayor Lili Bosse said.
The Council opted to amend its existing mask ordinance to avoid inadvertently messaging to residents that the mask ordinance had been repealed. “I would prefer to do that as an amendment to our existing ordinance so that we never have to say the repeal word, because I think if we say the repeal word, there will be confusion,” Mayor Robert Wunderlich noted.
Earlier in the day, the CDC announced relaxed mask guidelines that allow Americans to begin doffing their face coverings in certain instances. All people, regardless of vaccination status, can now walk, run, hike, or bike outdoors alone or with members of the same household.
Those who have received two doses (in the case of Moderna and Pfizer) or one dose (for Johnson & Johnson) of the vaccine and have waited the requisite two weeks can take even more liberties. They can mingle outdoors with a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals and even dine outdoors with people from several households.
“We no longer feel that the vaccinated people require masks outdoors,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky at a press conference.
The CDC stopped short of saying that vaccinated people can go unmasked outdoors in all cases. According to the new guidelines, everyone should still wear masks at crowded outdoor events, including concerts or sports venues. When it comes to indoor activity, the CDC advises wearing a mask if one might come into contact with someone from another household. Los Angeles County allows for vaccinated individuals to spend time indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household sans mask or physical distancing.
The updates ricocheted across the country and across public health departments. California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that California would take its cue from the CDC, tweeting, “If you’re fully vaccinated, outdoors, and not in a large crowd–you do not need to wear a mask.”
Next up, Los Angeles County Public Health confirmed that it would follow the CDC’s lead, saying that it would release a new health order in line with the new guidelines.
Since nearly the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Beverly Hills has aggressively enforced one of the strictest face covering policies in the county. The city announced the restrictions on April 10, 2020, making it one of the first cities to do so. The rules came with fines for noncompliance, starting at $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second, and $500 for the third and subsequent violation.
Despite the penalties, the city came under fire for not enforcing the ordinance against the hundreds who regularly gathered in Beverly Gardens Park for pro-Trump rallies beginning in the summer of 2020.
“The truth of the matter is that Beverly Hills has been the most aggressive city in giving out facial covering citations,” then-Mayor Lester Friedman told the Courier in December in response to criticism.
Over the last year, Beverly Hills has issued a total of 416 administrative citations for violations of COVID-19 public safety measures, which includes face coverings, business violations, and failure to socially distance.