San Jose residents may soon be required to wear face masks outside of their homes to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
While the Santa Clara County Public Health Department has “urged” residents to cover their faces when they go outside, San Jose Vice Mayor Chappie Jones and Councilman Sergio Jimenez want to align with other neighboring Bay Area counties that have put stricter measures in place for face coverings.
“A similar mandate has been implemented in five other Bay Area counties (Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo) and the cities of Cupertino, and Milpitas,” Jones and Jimenez wrote in a memo arguing for a similar policy. “Considering the city of San Jose is the most populous city in the region with a population of over 1 million and 66 percent of the county’s confirmed COVID-19 cases, adherence to this proposed mandate could have significant influence in further flattening the curve and reducing the spread of COVID-19.”
At Wednesday afternoon’s Rules and Open Government Committee meeting, Jones said he was “struck” by the number of people who aren’t wearing masks when he goes out to run essential errands. As businesses prepare to reopen in the coming months, the vice mayor said a mask mandate may help people feel more comfortable going out in public.
Jones and Jimenez have proposed a few exceptions to the rule in line with county health department guidance. Individuals who are exercising outdoors, under the age of 6, have trouble breathing or have been advised not to wear a mask by a medical professional would be exempt from the order.
Councilman Johnny Khamis, who is one of the five members on the subcommittee, said he was supportive of the proposal, but had concerns about enforcement. City Manager Dave Sykes said he had discussed the matter with San Jose police Chief Eddie Garcia and said the department was unsure of the proposed law’s “practicality.”
“Often times we make laws to keep honest people honest,” Jones said in defense. “The vast majority of the people that know it’s a mandate will do the right thing anyway. And then if you have a situation where you have an egregious offense, say you have somebody without a mask that’s in the face of grandma, then that might be an opportunity for the police to intervene. It would be situational.”
Over the last few days, a number of other jurisdictions including the city of Palo Alto and the Santa Clara County Superior Court have also enacted its own mask mandates.
The proposal is scheduled to be heard by the full council next Tuesday.