(CN) — Once lauded as the exemplar when it comes to flattening the coronavirus curve, California is in the throes of a rapidly expanding pandemic after relaxing many of the stay-at-home provisions.
In recognition that stringent lockdown policies could have a devastating economic effect that could be equal to or worse than the public health problems created by the disease, state officials have urged residents to obey social distancing rules and wear a mask when out in public, particularly when social distancing is difficult or there are crowds.
This past week, Governor Gavin Newsom instituted a statewide mandate. On Tuesday, the governor called wearing a mask the best “nonpharmaceutical measure” residents have to help combat the spread of the virus that causes Covid-19.
With a reporting presence in all 58 Golden State counties, Courthouse News Service took a look at what compliance looks like in a sampling of them.
Los Angeles County
In the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in California, Brooke Andrews just arrived at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles from the Central Coast on Monday morning.
She wore a mask and a single surgical glove over her right hand.
"I'm sorta afraid to touch my phone," said Andrews, who works as a bartender in Northern California. "I slept a little on the bus. Most everyone was wearing a mask and I didn't hear anyone coughing or sneezing. But as soon as we stopped here, I saw people without masks on."
That is the experience of many up and down the state, where wearing a cloth covering over the face is generally hit or miss.
At Nijiya Market in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo community, a clerk donning a plastic face shield, goggles and blue gloves stands at the entrance, stopping customers entering the store without wearing a face mask.
Safe shopping protocols are taped to pillars outside the market, reminding shoppers reusable bags are banned and that people should physically distance from others inside the store.
Next to Nijiya, in Japanese Village Plaza, customers stand under decorative lanterns outside Café Dulce, waiting for coffee and breakfast ordered through contactless payment.
For LA resident Jackie, who declined to share her last name while waiting in line at Café Dulce, the new safety protocols enforced by businesses are vital — but also a hindrance.
“I don’t think they should be having these restrictions,” said Jackie, who wore a cloth face mask emblazoned with the Dodgers logo. “These things are against the Constitution. I just think it’s kind of crazy.”
In Pasadena, most people shopping and walking in the central part of the city wear masks. A young woman talking with a friend, however, has her mask pulled down to hang around her neck. Waiters in a restaurant called Sorriso’s on Colorado Boulevard, the main street in town which leads to the Ninth Circuit courthouse, wear masks as well as face shields. The guests sitting at tables, inside and outdoors, wear neither.
Intensive care units in Riverside County east of LA are at 99% capacity and the region has seen a surge in Covid-19 infections, which has likely spurred overall compliance with Newsom’s mask mandate.
Businesses in downtown Riverside have signage indicating that masks are required to enter, with the exception of a few gas stations and liquor stores. Customers for the most part comply, though many take their masks off immediately upon exiting.
San Diego County
Roughly 1 out of 10 people wear masks as they stroll and jog along a popular walkway above the beach, along the Pacific Coast Highway in the north San Diego town of Carslbad. The few exceptions are older women, as well as Hispanic families.