Mixed Reactions Follow California’s Statewide Mask Requirement

June 24, 2020 Updated: June 24, 2020

ORANGE, Calif.⁠—A sign at the entrance of MMD Antiques shop in Orange, California, reads, “Masks are NOT necessary. PLEASE COME IN!”

Owner Matt De Vaul intends to keep that sign up despite Governor Gavin Newsom’s statewide order requiring masks be worn in public spaces. “I want people to feel normal in my store,” De Vaul told The Epoch Times.

Epoch Times Photo
A sign in MMD Antiques lets customers know that masks are optional in the store, in Orange, Calif., on June 19, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

In Orange County, mask requirements have especially been contentious.

Dr. Nichole Quick resigned as the county’s chief health officer after her order requiring face coverings in public spaces met with a strong backlash, including personal threats.

Her interim replacement, Dr. Clayton Chau, downgraded the requirement to a strong recommendation on June 11. Newsom issued his order requiring masks statewide on June 15.

Some sheriffs throughout the state have said they will not enforce the new mask order. Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes is one of them.

“It is each person’s responsibility to wear a face covering and follow the recommended safeguards in order to stop the spread of COVID-19; it is not law enforcement’s responsibility to enforce it,” he told ABC7.

De Vaul isn’t worried about consequences. “This is another complete overreach of power,” he said. “In my opinion, it’s not a law and it’s not enforceable. Any citation would not hold up in the court of law.”

The court of public opinion is another matter.

De Vaul’s decision to open his shop before officially permitted to do so, and his stance on protective gear in his store, have met with mixed reactions. “I know I lost customers in the last three months, but I have also gained new ones,” he said.

Epoch Times Photo
A mask lays on the sidewalk across the street from MMD Antiques in Orange, Calif., on June 19, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Newsom’s mask orders come with a few exceptions. For example, customers at restaurants who maintain a 6-foot distance from others may remove their masks.

People with medical conditions or disabilities that make mask-wearing dangerous or particularly difficult for them, along with children under the age of 2, do not have to wear masks.

Regarding enforcement, “We’re not looking to fine people,” Newsom said, according to the LA Times. “We’re looking to educate people, encourage people,” he said.

“And to the extent that people flaunt and abuse, which may be the exception, then we have many tools in the tool kit,” Newsom said. Regulatory agencies, such as the Division of Occupational Safety and Health, may be called upon to “exercise a little bit of persuasion,” he said.

The governor’s office did not reply to further inquiry from The Epoch Times about enforcement as of press deadline.

Newsom has said the mask requirement is necessary because many Californians have ignored recommendations to wear masks, and he’s worried about hospitalization numbers rising.

While De Vaul flouts the order, many are following it⁠—and some worry the supply of masks will be further strained.

Epoch Times Photo
A man and woman wearing masks walk into a grocery store in Playa Vista, Calif., on June 23, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Epoch Times Photo
Steve Snook, a pastor at Metropolis Church in Santa Monica, Calif., wears a facial covering as he hands out bags of food to low-income individuals near his church, on June 22, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

As lunch hour hits in Playa Del Rey, Los Angeles, a group of men clad in construction vests files into a cramped Subway restaurant. Maintaining distance between people is difficult there, but all are wearing masks.

Construction technician Matt Thalin, 30, like other essential workers, has encountered challenges with the high demand for masks in Southern California.

“Some of the jobs we do require masks as we deal with mold and chemicals that are worse than COVID,” Thalin told The Epoch Times.

“I’ve been using the same mask for months,” he said. The masks they need for those jobs are of a relatively high grade. “So, it’s tough when work masks are all extinct. Not being able to buy masks for some jobs is the most frustrating. Otherwise, it hasn’t affected us much.”

He said, “Most clients we’ve worked with haven’t cared if we’ve had masks or not.”