Buckle up Berkeley, your City Council is finally taking action. Enacted on September 15, a new regulation calls for a fine of up to one hundred dollars to be required of anyone not wearing a mask out in public. Of course, this fine isn’t handed out without warning, the City Council says. Ever since the city-wide lockdown started in early 2020, several different measures have been passed in an attempt to halt the spread of COVID-19. Unfortunately, in Alameda County alone, there have been over 20,000 cases and a shocking death toll rising into the one hundreds. This new ordinance, unlike so many others, is a realistic and efficient way to cut the coronavirus cases short and save hundreds of lives.
We all know the consequences of parking tickets. They’re common, expensive, and quite frankly, annoying. Nevertheless, they’re usually effective. Although there are the occasional not-so-legal pull-ups, people tend to keep those in check, for fear of losing money. The hope for this mandatory mask regulation is for it to have a conceptually similar impact as a parking ticket, but with human lives as a liability. You should already be wearing your mask on the daily; this mandate is just a way of making sure you’re held accountable for your actions during the pandemic.
If you’re worried about being fined for removing your mask to take a sip of your latte, have no fear. This ban, like all others, has its exceptions. You may remove your mask while eating or drinking publicly, as long as you put it back on as soon as you finish. Additionally, you can be exempt from the fine if you have documentation of medical issues suggesting you leave your face uncovered, or if your job requires you to remove your mask; though this only applies to jobs where wearing a mask would create a hazardous situation.
Although some may worry that this ban will disproportionately affect low income and homeless communities, complimentary masks and hand sanitizer will be provided on the newly free of charge AC Transit buses.
The most important thing to keep in mind regarding this fine is that it isn’t meant to target or hurt anyone. Rather, it has been implemented to save lives and help us in our attempt to return to normalcy during these dangerous times. Start holding yourself accountable. Next time you go out without a mask, remember that your life isn’t the only one you’re risking.