Buena Park residents are now required to wear masks in public to limit the risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, and businesses that employ essential workers will have to provide non-medical face coverings to employees who interact with the public. 

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City Council members at their April 14 meeting enacted the emergency laws that are consistent with Orange County health officials’ recommendations — but unlike the county guidelines, Buena Park’s mask rule is mandatory. Violations could lead to citations and administrative fines, according to the order.

The new measures fall in line with the actions of other cities in the county like Costa Mesa and Irvine, which took it upon themselves to enact mandatory mask laws this month and last month, respectively.   

Under Buena Park’s new order, businesses employing essential workers must also allow their employees to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer every 30 minutes. 

The face mask order didn’t go through without some resistance on the council.

Councilwoman Beth Swift said while it’s a “great idea for people to wear face coverings” – she said she herself wore one for a recent doctor’s appointment – “to make it an ordinance…I think that’s overkill.”

 She said it would be a “waste” of a police officer or code enforcement officer’s time to go out and cite people for violations. 

“I don’t want people feeling like big brother’s going to bop them over the head if they’re not wearing a face covering,” Swift said, adding that the city should instead continue its information campaign and merely encourage residents to cover themselves. “To mandate it? Absolutely not.”

Councilman Art Brown said in order for people to comply, the law needs to have some legal teeth.

 “If you don’t have some type of authority, people are just going to say: ‘I’m not going to do it,’” he said before the vote. “You got nothing to back it up with.”

Counties like Riverside and Los Angeles have enacted mandatory face mask laws for people out in public. Orange County has yet to follow suit beyond a non-mandatory advisory. 

Buena Park is also moving in the direction of putting more protections in place for its population of renters and small businesses owners.

The city, along with others in the county like Santa Ana and Westminster, has prohibited landlords from evicting tenants who’ve shown they were significantly impacted by the public health crisis. 

But now rental assistance funds and thousands of dollars in low or zero-interest small business loans could be on the table for Buena Park residents. 

Options for rental assistance payments for residents affected by the coronavirus public health emergency income would likely span a period of 6 to 12 months, and could range from $500 to $1,000, depending on need and the availability of funding, according to staff. 

For small businesses, city officials are looking at providing low or zero-interest loans between $10,000-$20,000 to businesses with less than 25 employees. 

City Council members took no action on the proposals when they heard the proposal at their April 14 meeting. For both possible programs, city staff said the details remain to be worked out.

“Goal is to get it back in two weeks,” said Councilman Connor Traut in a Thursday text message. “We are really going to try to move fast on this.”

Brandon Pho is a Voice of OC reporting fellow. Contact him at bpho@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @photherecord.

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