First, I’ll skip the platitudes. I have no idea who Adam Bass or David Ross are and while I probably should make more of an effort to understand their positions within the community, it’s completely irrelevant to the issue that I’d like to discuss: the City of West Hollywood’s response to COVID-19. More specifically, the city’s recent action to criminalize not wearing a face covering out in public.
As I’m sure both Adam and David will agree, this moment is unprecedented to us in history with only a few modern examples to compare it to. But as this disease is novel to us, we do have an understanding of how this virus is transmitted, the rates of transmission, and the spread throughout our community. Which is why it surprises me as to why suddenly, three months into this pandemic, that the city has decided now to criminalize not wearing a face mask. Why was this issue so pressing that it needed to be Lindsey Horvath’s first action as mayor when she or other Council members had ample opportunities during the initial stages of this crisis?
It seems each week there are new rules coming from neighboring communities regarding this issue, each nullifying the last. It honestly has become so tedious to keep up with, we may as well spin a wheel to see where it lands on the whims of local leaders. And while Anthony Fauci and other epidemiologists have stated the risk for contracting COVID-19 outdoors is incredibly low, that hasn’t stopped the pissing contest of local leaders to outdo one another on enacting their own restrictive measures.
As a resident of West Hollywood, I expect the kind of leadership and moral courage that a progressive and forward-thinking city ought to exemplify, and yet, here we’re given a toothless mandate from a feckless City Council. Businesses are at the brink of closing for good, residents are unemployed and having to ask for a measly $1,000 to assist with rent (which doesn’t even cover one month in this town). Food bank lines continue to grow all across this city and nation. But not wearing a face mask out in public is now a crime? How brave.
This new measure is an empty gesture to a frightened public looking for a false sense of security. Just like shutting down a paltry amount of unfrequented side streets to traffic. At its best, it’s a cosmetic solution to a PR nightmare, and at its worst, a punitive action that has the potential to affect the recently impoverished and disenfranchised in this community. With West Hollywood experiencing significant budget shortfalls, it certainly reads as suspicious to be empowering the police to issue a new class of citations to its residents all of a sudden. And how cruel to be demanding the recently unemployed to empty their pockets just because they forgot to wear a mask taking out the trash.
God forbid West Hollywood step up to the plate and enact bold measures to help its residents and businesses like rent forgiveness or mandating hazard pay for corporate businesses still operating within city limits. These kind of initiatives would solve a lot more issues than having a dismal 300 residents duke it out over who gets rental assistance. But no, we instead have to settle for a City Council more interested in virtue signaling. Dear West Hollywood leaders: learn how to lead.B