The interim chief health officer of Orange County, California, Dr. Clayton Chau, has lifted the requirement for the public to wear face masks — days after his predecessor resigned amid criticism, and even death threats over her order, according to a new report.
Dr. Chau announced Thursday that while face coverings are no longer mandatory, they are strongly recommended to keep the virus at bay as more businesses in the county are given the green light to reopen.
“I want to be clear. This does not diminish the importance of face coverings,” Chau announced Thursday, according to KABC. He said, “I stand with the public health experts and believe wearing cloth face coverings help to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community and save lives”.
Chau said he was not bowing to community pressure — he simply wants the county to be in line with state guidelines, which do not require face coverings.
“This decision is not because of the public pushback on it and we are not taking the masks away,” he said, according to the Orange County Register. He noted, “we strongly recommend that people wear masks”.
Dr. Nichole Quick, Chau’s predecessor, faced immediate resistance from residents and elected officials when she issued the face mask mandate in late May.
During a contentious board of supervisors meeting, one woman who identified herself as an attorney read aloud Quick’s address and threatened to take a group there to “do calisthenics in masks on her front doorstep” in an attempt to prove that face coverings are unsafe.
Quick voluntarily resigned Monday, and the county agreed to pay her $75,000 in severance.
Chau on Thursday called Quick’s resignation a “great loss to this community,” KABC reported.
County officials announced Thursday that bars and breweries, gyms, movie theaters, hotels and more would be able to open Friday as the state moves into Stage Three of its reopening plan, according to the Register.
Public and private neighborhood swimming pools can also open with appropriate social distancing measures in place.
Orange County reported 260 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday bringing the total to 7,987. Four additional deaths were reported, bringing the county’s death toll to 202. The county has reported 3,726 recoveries from the virus.