Benicia may pass mask mandate amid county’s inaction

Bay Area

BENICIA, Calif. (BCN) — With the rise of the COVID-19 Delta variant, the Benicia City Council is expected to require that face masks be worn inside public buildings throughout the city.

The move comes as Bay Area counties have reinstated indoor mask mandates as the Delta variant circulates. Solano County has not instituted a mask mandate.

Benicia Mayor Steve Young expressed frustration with the lack of action by the Solano County Public Health Department.

“The county is unwilling to order a mask mandate so the Benicia council has to step in and do so,” Young said Monday.

Young also wondered why Solano County’s health officer Dr. Bela Matyas is not ordering a new mask mandate.

“It does raise the question, what does Dr. Matyas know that the rest of the public health officials in the Bay Area don’t,” Young added.

Reached by phone Monday night, Matyas said there wasn’t evidence that a mask mandate would help stop the transmission of COVID-19 for Solano County residents.

“The data shows that it’s being spread through social events,” Matyas added.

Matyas said the city of Benicia is free to institute a mask mandate.

“I genuinely don’t believe it is needed (for Solano County),” Matyas said.

Data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a 34 percent increase in COVID cases in Solano County from Aug. 14 to Aug. 21.

Young said the city had a mask mandate up until June when the state began to loosen mask restrictions. Benicia’s mask mandate requires every person 12 years old and above to wear a face covering when inside a building open to the public. These spaces include grocery stores, laundromats, commercial office buildings and restaurants, among others.

Over in the city of Vallejo, all persons entering city buildings — regardless of vaccination status — are required to wear a face mask, said Vallejo spokeswoman Christina Lee.

Lee said the Vallejo City Council might consider a similar action like the one Benicia is taking but the soonest that could happen would be in September.

The special Benicia City Council meeting will begin at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

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