Contra Costa residents divided on COVID-19 mask requirement

To mask or not to mask — is that even a question?

Apparently so, since there exist two camps in Contra Costa County when it comes to wearing facial coverings during this COVID-19 global pandemic — those who believe in wearing masks and those who ditch them much of the time.

At press time according to Contra Costa Health Services’ website (, the agency’s July 5 health order says, “This Order requires that all individuals in Contra Costa County, over the age of 2 years, wear face coverings in accordance with guidance issued by the State of California … individuals and businesses in the County must comply with the following local requirements, as applicable:

  • Individuals shall wear Face Coverings when less than 6 feet away from any person who is not a member of the individual’s household or living unit.
  • Individuals must wear Face Coverings when inside or on the grounds of, or waiting in line to enter, any business.”

While requiring a face mask in businesses or when less than 6 feet from someone outside one’s household may seem an innocuous task to some, maybe a bit uncomfortable and restrictive to breathing at worst, there are those who feel it’s a violation of their rights and that the safety aspect holds little to no value.

“If you support someone’s right to pick their gender, their sexual orientation or their right to terminate a pregnancy for nonmedical reasons, you don’t have a right to tell anyone to wear a mask because you are advocating for a person’s right to choose their path in life,” said Cari Gonzaga, of Antioch.

She also feels that if 2020 were not an election year, COVID-19 would be looked at like the previous H1N1, or “swine flu,” pandemic.

“I believe COVID-19 is real, but with a 98% recovery rate more and more Americans are realizing the COVID-19 hysteria was created to shut down our country to destroy our economy to block Trump’s re-election,” she added.

Ken Turnage, of Antioch, believes everyone has the right to make up their own minds. He personally prefers to ditch the mask when in open air, at home and around others while social distancing himself. He believes it’s not healthy to wear masks for long periods of time.

“I believe wearing a mask at all times stops my body from development of natural antibodies for viruses as well as COVID-19,” said Turnage.

He bases his decisions on several factors.

“Direct article references I don’t have off the top of my head; I have read way too many to keep them separate — also many on both sides of the aisle, then applied my own logic,” he added.

Olivia Edery, of Richmond, believes wearing a mask definitely helps mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

“Many medical experts and studies have shown that a primary way the virus spreads is through respiratory droplets that we expel as we breathe or speak, like when you can see your breath because of how cold it is outside,” Edery said. “With a mask, you trap your own droplets near your face so they don’t spread onto other people or surfaces.”

She feels that unless people can get an N95 respirator mask, “you’re not going to protect yourself much with a basic cloth mask, which is why it matters that everyone wears one so that we all keep each other safe.”

Sandra Risser, of Concord, spoke directly with her doctor about the efficacy of wearing masks.

“Scientific logic explained by one of my doctors said that when a person sneezing is properly wearing a mask, fewer particulates or viruses are spewed into the air,” said Risser, who also feels cleaning or changing out masks daily is equally as important. “For the person nearby wearing a mask, they immediately inhale fewer viruses than a person without a mask.”

Kathy Hansen, of Clayton, does not believe masks prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“My resources are OSHA, CDC and the box the masks come in,” said Hansen, who admits to wearing a mask in public and also rarely going out.

“I don’t think we should shut down again, I don’t trust the data,” added Hansen. “I went to Kaiser for a mammogram and the nurse and I got into quite the discussion. She told me to watch a video of this nurse who went to New York (”

Oakley resident Rylee Stafford has questions for those who feel the masks are ineffective.

“If the mask is ineffective, why do healthcare professionals wear them 24-7 while at work? For fun? And (if only some people should wear masks), why should I have to drive sober? Isn’t your sobriety enough to protect you?” Stafford asked rhetorically.

She has a lot to say to those who believe the COVID-19 death rate is less than 1%.

“In places with lower-income houses and minorities, it is shown that they have a higher rate of infection due to lack of PPE (personal protective equipment) and affordable healthcare,” said Stafford. “Even if it was just a 1% mortality rate, I wouldn’t want that 1% to be my mother or father, myself or anybody else I came into contact with.”

Hansen has questions of her own.

“Why is it the homeless aren’t dying in masses? They have improper sanitation, and they’re not in controlled environments, yet the large number of deaths are only from hospitals for the elderly,” asked Hansen.

Karen Lewis, of Pittsburg, said to take notes from other countries that have successfully thwarted the spread and feels Americans avoid masks out of fear.

“I think that some simply deny the truth as a coping mechanism; a way to survive mentally,” said Lewis. “If they deny masks are needed, their reality is seemingly safe again.”

Ultimately, Gonzaga feels it’s an individual decision to either wear a mask or not.

“I personally feel if masks work and they make you feel like you’re protecting yourself from cooties flying around in the air, then wear one,” said Gonzaga. “I also feel if you don’t feel the need to wear a mask, you shouldn’t have to. If masks work, then the ones who wear them should not have anything to worry about, right?”

Edery believes those who don’t believe in the value of wearing masks is more about selfishness.

“It’s about ego and stubbornness,” she said. “For the vast majority of people, masks do not cause any serious issues. The extra CO2 inhalation has been proven to be negligible, and people cover their faces in scarves in winter with no problems all the time. It’s certainly uncomfortable and takes some getting used to, and I have several friends who get a claustrophobic reaction at first, but the alternative — getting sick or spreading this horrible virus to others — is far worse.

Charleen Earley is a freelance writer and journalism professor at Foothill and Diablo Valley colleges. Reach her at or 925-383-3072.

Go to Source
Author: Charleen Earley