Cupertino to require face coverings in public

At an emergency meeting Wednesday, Cupertino’s City Council passed a measure requiring the use of face coverings on essential activities.

While Santa Clara County has not required masks, the county’s top health official, Dr. Sara Cody, has strongly recommended them. Ricardo Romero-Morales, a county health staffer, reiterated that the public should not buy medical grade masks. Concerns remain about stockpiles of personal protective equipment for health care workers.

When should residents wear masks?

The masks are not require for all outdoor activities, including exercise or dog walking. Rather it applies when residents go to essential businesses or to essential appointments. The county’s shelter-at-home order is still in effect, and strict social distancing remains the best way to prevent COVID-19 spread.

Cupertino received 20,000 donated masks earlier this week. City staff distributed many Wednesday to small businesses for use by employees or incoming customers. While Cupertino only has 23 documented cases of coronavirus, face coverings will likely be a key mitigation strategy moving forward.

Children under the age of two should not wear masks, as they can cause suffocation.

Are there penalties for not wearing a mask? How do I get one?

Cupertino’s requirement comes with penalties for non-compliance, though the main enforcement focus is to educate residents. Administrative citations are possible, with fines of $100 for first violation, $200 for the second, and $500 for subsequent ones.

A number of small businesses in Cupertino now have supplies, but City Manager Deb Feng is hoping to get some to West Valley Community Services as well. Santa Clara County Board President Cindy Chavez, who joined the meeting, said Valley Medical Foundation is also connecting those in need with supplies.

Why did Cupertino go beyond the County’s recommendation?

Supervisor Chavez discussed the county’s rationale during the Cupertino Council Meeting, citing law enforcement prioritization and safety.

“The main goal that we have is giving directives to people, and we prefer that they wear masks,” Chavez said.

“But we don’t make it enforceable by law in part because we want to diminish the amount of conflict that people have with our law [enforcement] professionals,” she continued.

Councilmember Rod Sinks, who voted against the city’s measure, worried that passing a measure in Cupertino would create confusion. Neighboring cities have not passed similar efforts to date.

“I would prefer to see us simply abide by the orders as the county of Santa Clara deems to see fit,” Sinks said, while lauding the county’s leadership on COVID-19 response.

That was a perspective that Cupertino Mayor Steven Scharf sharply disagreed with.

“If we do it and other city does it, Santa Clara County may follow the best practices of the other Bay Area Counties if we act responsibly,” Scharf said.

Scharf, in a PowerPoint presentation defending his perspective cast aspersions on the county’s facemask recommendations.

It read, in part, “The County is looking for a way to save face after all the negative news stories in the last two days.”