The acting public health officer in San Bernardino County, California, has now issued an order that everyone in the county must wear a face covering when leaving home. The order includes a description of acceptable face coverings that include anything that can secure to the ears or back of the head and encompass the mouth and nose. Homemade cloth ear loop covers, bandannas and handkerchiefs and neck gaiters were suggested and residents were urged to preserve surgical and N95 masks for healthcare workers and emergency responders.
The order also singles out Christians who will be celebrating Easter on Sunday, stating that faith-based services must be electronic only through streaming or online technology and goes as far as to specify that people may not leave their homes for driving parades or drive-up services or even to pick up non-essential items “such as pre-packaged Easter eggs or bags filled with candy and toys at a drive-thru location”.
The crackdown on county residents’ public attire and religious expression is further justified by the statement that San Bernardino County has 530 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and that the deaths of 16 county residents have been “associated” with the disease. San Bernardino County has a population of 2+ million people.
Violation of the order is a crime punishable by up to a $1,000 fine or imprisonment up to 90 days, or both. There is no projected end to this order.
San Bernardino County joins Riverside County, California in the face-covering order, after Riverside County changed their face-covering suggestion to an order, claiming 18 deaths due to COVID-19. Riverside County has a population of 2+ million people.
San Bernardino County’s order was issued on Tuesday, April 7. As of Wednesday, April 8, the County has issued a “clarification” of the order. Organizations that have planned religious services for the coming weekend “should proceed with those services if they choose to do so and make every effort to prevent contact between congregants”. They have also clarified that there is no need to use a face-covering while driving and it is noted that other clarifying guidance will be forthcoming. They also note that the County “does not expect law enforcement to broadly impose citations on violators”.