Kevin Cody

Manhattan Beach spike in COVID-19 cases prompts mask enforcement proposals

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Masked server Michelle Valania takes an order on Fishing With Dynamites new patio. Other downtown restaurants have been criticized for failing to follow COVID-19 precautionary guidelines. Photo by Kevin Cody

by Kevin Cody

An exponential increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases in Manhattan Beach over the past 11 weeks led to a lengthy City Council discussion Tuesday night on how to compel business owners and their customers to wear masks.

“We had 13 COVID-19 cases in May. In June, we had 55 cases. In just the first week of July we’ve had 32 cases. At this rate we’ll have 100 new cases by the end of the month. We need to do something,” Councilwoman Nancy Hersman said.

Mayor Richard Montgomery said he learned over the weekend of a private party attended by 20 people.

“Some turned out to be sick. I couldn’t believe these people weren’t smarter than that,” Montgomery said.

Councilman Steve Napolitano proposed enforcing the facial covering law.

“The trade-off for allowing the restaurants to have outdoor dining is they follow the rules. Or they get shut down,” Napolitano said.

Chamber of Commerce CEO Kelly Stroman, who participated in the Zoom meeting, acknowledged that restaurants have been lax in enforcing facial covering requirements.

But she objected to restaurants being singled out.

“Enforcement needs to be across the board. Not just restaurants, but retail and residents walking  down the street,” Stroman said.

Chief of Police Derrick Abel said his officers respond to complaints and that they handed out masks to people downtown over the Fourth of July weekend.

He suggested businesses provide masks to customers who aren’t wearing masks. 

“It’s a way of avoiding confrontation. We (mask wearers) become the majority. They (non mask wearers) become the minority,” he said.

Hersman said the police have more important work to do than enforce the wearing masks.

She suggested, “Hire security to go into stores downtown, in the North End and along Rosecrans. We need to be proactive. We shouldn’t be waiting for the Los Angeles County Health department to bust people.”

City attorney Quinn Barrow told the council the city has the authority to issue citations to people not wearing masks.

Napolitano proposed that a means of enforcement be discussed by the ad hoc committee formed by the council last week to explore long term solutions to problems raised by the pandemic. The committee, which has yet to meet, is to include Napolitan, Hersman and representatives of the business community and downtown residents. ER 

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