A southern California county will no longer require residents to wear masks in public after threats of violence over a stricter mask mandate forced out the former county health officer.
Orange County, California, now only “strongly recommends” residents wear cloth face coverings when in public. The guidance comes from the county’s interim Chief Health Officer Dr. Clayton Chau, who is also director of the county’s Health Care Agency.
Under former Chief Health Officer Nichole Quick, all Orange County residents were required to wear a face covering outside their homes when it wasn’t possible to keep at least six feet of distance from another person, according to a Health Care Agency web page published before Quick’s resignation.
Residents and officials received Quick’s mask mandate with derision. The county sheriff said his department would not enforce the mask rule. Quick required heightened security toward the end of her run, too, after threats of violence. County officials said she received a death threat during a meeting that allowed public comment, CNN affiliate KABC reported.
Quick resigned earlier this week.
Protests over mask mandates have turned violent since states began reopening in May. A town in Oklahoma revoked its mask requirement within a day of enacting it after residents threatened violence. And customers in Michigan are accused of fatally shooting a Family Dollar security guard who told them they needed to wear masks to enter the store.
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Masks and social distancing are considered the two most effective methods of preventing the spread of coronavirus, according to a recent study published in the Lancet. Wearing a mask can keep asymptomatic people from exhaling respiratory droplets – like spit, coughs and sneezes – that can carry the virus and infect others.
Orange County has seen nearly 8,000 Covid-19 cases and 202 deaths, the county’s Health Care Agency reported. Cases have more than doubled in the last month.
New cases were trending slightly down toward the end of May but shot up again in the second week of June, from 154 new cases on June 1 to 260 on June 11. The uptick follows weeks of gradual reopenings in California.