Opinion: Those Who Cannot Remember the Past Are Condemned to Repeat It

These women went to work in 1918 and wore face masks to protect against the spread of influenza. (Photo courtesy of the Everett Collection)

Beginning in 1918, the world experienced one of the deadliest health pandemics in human history. The pandemic became known as the Spanish Flu – not because it originated in Spain, but because Spain was one of the few countries that allowed public reporting. (Other countries discouraged transparent reporting of data, largely to encourage morale for the ongoing war effort.)

In the United States, public health officials offered advisories to protect people from spreading the flu. Prohibiting public gatherings, closing theatres and schools, and committing to excellent personal hygiene were among the recommended practices. One important precautionary measure was wearing masks in public. Organizations such as the Red Cross sold masks to people who were out in public without them. Failure to wear a mask could result in charges of “disturbing the peace” and fines or jail time for continued violations.

Cities had difficulty enforcing ordinances that codified these advisories, largely because of public pushback. In San Francisco, officials repealed their original ordinance in response to public outcry, but later reinstated it when reported cases of the flu significantly increased. Then, the Anti-Mask League of San Francisco formed. They collected signatures to repeal the mask ordinance and to recall the leading public health official in the city. Chief among their arguments was infringement on civil liberties.

Less than one month later, the mask ordinance was repealed. The global health pandemic, however, lasted more than two years, claiming tens of millions of lives. San Francisco was reported to have suffered the most of all major American cities, with a death rate approaching 30 deaths per 1,000 people. Experts say that communities enforcing stricter regulations — starting enforcement efforts earlier and for a longer period of time — had lower death rates.

Now, 100 years later, we are in much the same set of circumstances — though San Francisco has done an exceedingly better job this time around. In West Hollywood, we also have a responsibility to learn from history. While efforts to re-open our city are ongoing, COVID-19 is still with us, and we do not yet have a vaccine or cure.

We continue to encourage everyone to remain Safer in the Community. Practice physical distancing. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds and use hand sanitizer. Monitor your symptoms. Get tested. Quarantine for 14 days if you have been exposed to someone who has tested positive. Make a plan with your doctor.

In accordance with State law, as well as county and city orders, West Hollywood requires wearing a face covering in public. All of the city’s media outlets carry the message. The city’s parks feature signage as a reminder. Face coverings are readily available throughout the community. In addition to DIY options, local stores now have reusable and disposable face coverings part of their regular inventory.

To enforce the Health Officer Orders, Block by Block Ambassadors and Pacwest security guards have issued warnings to people without face coverings in public. LASD personnel from the West Hollywood Station are distributing masks to people who do not have them, and issuing warnings and citations for failure to wear face coverings, as appropriate. The city’s Code Compliance staff regularly respond to complaints about lack of face coverings or failure to comply with other protocols. Businesses are struggling to stay alive, so we must do all we can to get them into compliance and support efforts to keep them in compliance so people are as safe as possible.

The highest number of confirmed cases in the Los Angeles area is among people ages 18 to 40 years old. No one is immune. Not only must you protect your own health, but also consider the safety of our most vulnerable community members — those living with compromised immune systems or respiratory issues, or our older adults and seniors. They simply cannot risk being out in public with people who are not wearing face coverings. Choosing not to wear one means isolation and loneliness for others. If someone asks you to wear a face covering, do the right thing! It is a gesture of kindness, courtesy, and compassion to wear a face covering. Consider it your civic duty to stop the spread of coronavirus. We ALL have an important role to play in making sure our residents can stay healthy, our businesses can thrive safely, and our visitors can return with confidence to West Hollywood.

When we look back on this time, we want to see that we learned from our past. We do not want this pandemic to be named after our country because we lived in ignorance, or failed to accurately report the data, or refused to take it seriously. We do not want another economic shutdown or a growing death toll. We do not want neighbors turning against one another over the simple act of wearing face coverings to stop the spread. The quality of life for all of West Hollywood’s residents and the vibrancy of our local economy are at stake.

  • Wear a face covering.
  • Physically distance and respect people’s space.
  • Most importantly, take care of each other.

For Los Angeles County data: http://ph.lacounty.gov/coronavirus

For the latest from the City of West Hollywood: www.weho.org/coronavirus

  1. Of masks and social distancing work, why keep closing down the city? It makes more sense to me that the rioters and protesters have more to do with surges 🤷🏾‍♀️

  2. I have a chronic auto immune disorder. I wear a mask when I can’t socially distance. But I oppose enforcement of mask wearing. Why?

    -Cops are NOT public health workers. As we pursue alternatives to policing, and to build community trust, we should minimize police involvement in public health response.

    -Civil liberties. They matter, unwavering. Horvath invokes them when defending civil disobedience and protest for causes she is aligned with. She minimizes them when opposing free speech that is critical of Israeli human rights abuses, and this enforced masking debate. So, do they really matter to her at all?

    -Unintended consequences for vulnerable populations. We know petty nuisance crimes are routinely used to target “undesirable elements”. Enforceability of masking in an area like skid row is near impossible. In WeHo, we can expect unhoused people and other routinely profiled communities to feel the brunt of these policies.

    -The financial burden is significant, in a time of record unemployment and economic insecurity. The ACLU has identified mask enforcement as a LAST RESORT for municipalities, who are advised to proceed with extreme caution.

    Call me a Maskhole, that’s ad hominem. It’s also a juvenile understanding of a principled position.

    1. Please check out Adrienne Alpert’s interview with LA City Attorney Mike Feuer today on ABC. It will give you rational for your mask concerns and more.


    1. Unsure which is more pervasive and deadly, The Trump Virus of Ignorance & Retribution, The Public Virus of Irresponsibility or the Actual Coronavirus itself.

      With all the opportunity that life and our concept of democracy offers, we have come to this, nearing the end of a very dark tunnel.

      Meanwhile Facebook, the preferred vehicle of information for millions of individuals who like to chat about 5th grade experiences, could have taken the high road providing accurate newsworthy information about those in the global community that elected the correct path to handle their pandemic, individually and collectively. Unfortunately with Mark Zuckerberg’s near infantile lack of consciousness and responsibility, he will undoubtedly be consumed by the monster he brought to life. The question is will anyone be around to bear witness the aftermath.

    2. It would be interesting to know what sources of newsworthy information the council members depend upon, in order of preference, to keep them informed about world events and the exponential effects of coronavirus. They can include print, online and tv.

      Are they diggers for facts, followers or fluffers?

      Perhaps we could design a game around this WeHo Style but actually, this is not a game.

  4. I think Lindsey makes valid points. The problem, as I see it, is the lack of enforcement by sheriffs. About a week ago I saw two maintenance workers at the sheriff’s station not wearing masks, one was on the sidewalk working on the landscape and the other was working in the parking lot. I’ve also passed unmasked deputies at Urth.

  5. The same mayor who was encouraging protests and mass gatherings just last week? She doesn’t care about the people of Weho.

  6. Yet it will. Yet it has. And so it must. History is being rewritten as we speak right now. The Chinese virus is already the American screwed themselves virus through manipulation of data, obmission of reference terms, and all starting with flat out lies that will one day be truths. A hundred years from now, survivors will refer to this time as the Trump Dump of 2020. The year a world leader single handidly brought down a nation and crippled a world because he was crippled himself with a psychological disease and simply could not tell the truth. History will say that primitive communication called media fanned the flames during a virul outbreak, and the vanity of a 50 individual state nation could not come together in time to fend off this intruder. And 200 years from now they will be saying the same story about the virus of 2120, just with a different origination point

  7. Don’t change the subject, Lindsey. You participated in illegal activity and should resign immediately.
    If you don’t resign, the city council should censure you.

  8. The totally dysfunctional West Hollywood City Council had three months to pull themselves together regarding masks.
    But they were too wrapped up in grandstanding and other nonsense like painting flags in the street.
    As for Lindsey Horvath, maybe she can get all her greedy all white male developer cronies to chip in money for thousands of masks instead of financing herself and her fellow political pay for play elected hacks on the City Council.

  9. Thank you Mayor Horvath for your very thoughtful opinion piece.  I am a longtime resident of West Hollywood and have always thought of us as a community that cares for and about our neighbors and visitors.  
    An older adult, I am now a member of the vulnerable demographic. It is a scary place to be.  Most of the time I shelter in place, but do take two walks daily. I avoid the more “crowded” streets when possible, but live off Melrose and sometimes find myself there.
    My heart aches when I see the number of people without masks.  Well, actually many do have them—artfully placed across the chin, hanging from one ear, half in and half out of a pocket or pants, or just carrying it in one’s hand. I suppose it’s trending. 
    I want to yell at them. I want them to know that by simply wearing a mask, they can save lives.  Without one, it is possible to contribute to the death of another human being. But I don’t yell. Perhaps I should. It is unthinkable to me that so many people seem to not care one whit about others.
    Please wear a mask and adhere to proper distancing.  Let’s once again be a city that cares for and about our neighbors and our visitors. Thank you.

  10. Thank you, Mayor Horvath, for this clear, concise and compassionate article. Personally, while I don’t try to lecture or shame anyone for not wearing a mask (because, hey, they can’t claim ignorance….they know but don’t care) when I am out & about someone walks towards me without a mask I just firmly tell them that since they are not wearing a mask to please step out of the way & go around me by at least 6 feet. I fear that we are headed towards a huge uptick in transmission, hospitalizations and deaths. If our residents are unable or unwilling to abide by the State and City’s mandates, I hope Council will take action to protect all of us–including shutting down parks, public spaces and in-restaurant dining.

  11. My neighbor, in a 30 unit apartment building on Flores Street, is a “social media influencer” and works for a digital magazine in Hollywood. From day one of the pandemic neither he nor his multiple guests have worn a mask. He would be in and out of the building all hours of the day and night, and have invited guests constantly, not one of them ever wearing a mask. He told me he didn’t care about the virus and didn’t believe what was in the news.
    Our landlord/management, Danny Monempour/Monem Corp. didn’t even close the pool here until 3 weeks after the fact. This neighbor and his invited guests continued to use the pool day and night as if they owned it during all that time, never wearing a mask. On 5/14/20, 5/15/20 and Memorial Day there were 3 pool parties, including this neighbor, other tenants and invited guests. Not one of them wearing a mask, no social distancing and no protocols in place for cleaning/sanitation of the pool area/furniture/floats. 
    One day I pointedly asked my neighbor, what if someone as selfish as you gave the virus to your mother and she died.
    His response was chilling. “Well, what if she dies from something else. People die”.
    His selfish, self-centered behavior continues. 

    1. call the sheriffs….then call again and again. too bad they are so self centered that they don’t use their “influence” for the good of their community.

      1. I did call the police because an employee of my landlord accused me of stalking my neighbor and him. Police couldn’t make this neighbor do anything, but told me he is a bad neighbor and my management company accusing me of stalking was ridiculous.

          1. Because our landlord/management co. eventually closed the pool, albeit 3 weeks too late, the Health Dept. would not take a complaint when I called them.

          2. I just filed a complaint with the County as my landlord, Fardad Danny Monempour refuses to comply with any of the County’s protocols regarding the operation of the pool.
            And this “social media” guy continues to “Flaunt” his total disregard for any other tenant here, constantly bringing in to the pool a “friend” who is violent and abusive.

  12. Excellent article and glad the city has reversed its position. Now it’s time to get masks to residents who cannot afford them and open up city hall to provide basic counter services with masks on.

  13. It is worrisome to see Covid coming back for what might be the earthquake after the fore-shock we’ve. I want to thank Mayor Horvath for penning this Op-Ed as a reminder that this really is in our hands. Personal note….I check in on a few more senior treasures in our Tri West neighborhood who were such vital members of the community but are living under very stringent self imposed lock downs. They’re scared to go to the store or to take their daily lap around the block. I know it’s a lot to ask of some folk, and also many new citizens to West Hollywood who may not be aware of these much loved “agitators”. If you can just be a little more giving and wear your mask WHEN you walk out your front door, so one of your neighbors feels comfortable to get out and take a walk….. a walk which changes their entire day. -b

  14. Only the most selfish and self centered are not wearing masks at this point. They refuse to listen to reasoning. I guess they don’t know anyone who has died from this horrible, extremely contagious virus. I know four. They suffered. Maybe, as with everything else it has to harm someone they care about before they will think of others. Such a sad reality for me to realize just how many people don’t care about their fellow community members.

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