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LANCASTER — In what Mayor R. Rex Parris called a “life-and-death” issue, the City is requiring people to wear something to cover their mouth and nose when out in public during the COVID-19 global pandemic.

“This is not to protect you; this is to protect everybody else if in fact you have the virus and don’t necessarily know you have it,” Parris said at the meeting.

The ordinance does not require people to wear a face mask. You can wear a bandanna or scarf, as long as it covers your nose and mouth.

Parris acknowledged there is a shortage of face masks.

“You have to fashion your own,” Parris said. “But it’s great time to be creative. I mean, let’s face it, we’re having to stay home anyway.”

The ordinance includes employees, staff and patrons of all essential businesses such as grocery stores and pharmacies that remain open to the public during the COVID-19 global pandemic.

The City Council conducted the meeting via teleconference. A participant who interrupted Parris during discussion asked about the consequences for anyone who chooses not to cover up.

“I’m hoping that I don’t have to put a consequence on this ordinance,” Parris said. “Make no mistake, that’s exactly what we will do. And we will start issuing tickets for misdemeanors if it comes down to that. We are not going to allow anyone in our city to endanger the lives of our hardworking families. And anyone who is not wearing a mask, that is precisely what you’re doing.”

There currently is no consequence for anyone who violates the ordinance, but that could change.

“We’re not doing this because we want to or because we enjoy doing it. We’re doing it because people’s lives are in danger,” Parris said.

Vice Mayor Marvin Crist said they are trying to protect and educate the public on what medical officials recommend.

“We’re trying to educate everybody and not have to enforce it,” Crist said.

Councilman Ken Mann said the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the use of a cloth face mask.

“Their intention is to reduce the spread of COVID1-19,” Mann said. “They’re not necessarily recommending taking masks away from first responders.”

The ordinance goes into effect immediately An ordinance typically goes into effect 30 days after a second approval by the City Council. It will remain in effect until Gov. Gavin Newsom announces the state of emergency in California is no longer in effect.

Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in Friday’s daily briefing that wearing masks provides protection more against spreading the virus than against being infected

“For everyone who’s an essential worker working in health care or working with people who are ill, we need to make sure they have the protection they need to do their best jobs,” Ferrer said. “And that means they need to have access to all of the N95s and all of the surgical masks that are in our depleting stocks.

“For everybody else, particularly the public, it is perfectly appropriate for you … to put on a face covering. And that face covering should be something you make yourself, definitely not a medical mask.”

Wearing a mask does not mean ignoring other requirements, such as physical distancing, hand washing and the like.

 “It is not a substitute for our main tools, which are physical distancing, staying home, particularly if you’re ill, and hand washing. Those are the ways we are going to continue to prevent transmission.”

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