Health Local News West Hollywood

West Hollywood hands out masks rather than fines

WEST HOLLYWOOD — The city has yet to issue any fines to people not wearing masks in public, after announcing a week ago that it would start to do so, in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which patrols West Hollywood, has instead been working closely with Kristin Cook, the city’s director of public safety, to give masks to those who don’t have one, versus handing out a citation.

“When we approach an individual who’s not wearing a mask, we simply ask them to put one on and if they do not have one, we will provide them with a mask,” said Lt. Bill Moulder of the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station. “The citation would be administrative, meaning non-criminal, if we were to hand them out for not wearing a mask in this city.”

The West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station announced fines of up to $300 on July 1, after a drastic increase in COVID-19 cases in June. That follows California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s statewide order for people to wear masks that was issued June 18. The city of Santa Monica also announced on July 2 that it would issue fines for not wearing masks.

Some West Hollywood residents are pleased with this requirement and believe it will help to stop the surge in COVID-19 cases.

“I think we all have to understand that COVID-19 is real, and this is really happening,” said resident Melissa Justis Randall. “I wear my mask because I don’t want to infect anyone in case I’m asymptomatic, but I also don’t want to catch the virus. I think overall, it’s a sign of respect. I have a sister who works on the frontlines as a nurse, so I can attest this is real.”

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government advised people not to wear masks, afraid of causing a shortage for frontline workers. Recently, some officials have advised people to wear masks not only to protect themselves from COVID-19, but to protect others from contracting the virus.

Yet, many Americans have refused to wear one, with one woman going on a recent tirade at a Trader Joe’s in North Hollywood after being asked to wear a mask.

Clinical psychologist Paul Backlund, who is based in West Hollywood, addressed the refusal of many people in California to wear masks, saying that the backlash is coming from people who are financially privileged.

“There seems to be a systemic problem in believing someone is having their freedoms taken from them because they are not directly affected by this virus the way others have been,” he said. “If you are of a certain social class you are not typically a frontline worker, you have access to great medical care and access to money if you lose your job.”

Backlund added that even if the consequences aren’t dire for the person who refuses to comply with the rule, it could prove deadly to others.

“Wearing a mask is not part of the problem,” he said. “Infecting a group of people because you refuse to wear a mask is the problem.”