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Benicia to consider lifting mask mandate for businesses checking vaccination status

  •   2 min reads
Benicia to consider lifting mask mandate for businesses checking vaccination status
Mayor Steve Young said he discussed his vaccination plan with businesses on First Street. Photo: city of Benicia.

BENICIA – Benicia Mayor Steve Young will suggest that the city council lift the city’s mask mandate for businesses that check for a customer’s proof of vaccination status on entry, the mayor said in a Facebook post last week.

Benicia and Vallejo are currently the only two cities in Solano County that have enacted an indoor mask mandate for businesses to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Young said that Benicia will reconsider its mask mandate and discuss possibly reopening city council chambers for in-person meetings at the council’s next meeting. As part of that discussion, he said he will suggest that businesses may opt to let customers go maskless after  showing proof they are vaccinated at the door.

“If 100% of people in a business were vaccinated, the mask requirement would be eliminated for customers and staff alike,” Young said. “This would NOT be a vaccine mandate, but an opportunity for those businesses who wanted to go this direction to voluntarily do so.”

The idea, he said, came from a gym where customers did not want to exercise with a mask on. The gym – which knows who its members are and would only have to check their status once – was enthusiastic about the idea, Young said.

Young said he also spoke with some business operators on First Street, some of whom said they would opt to keep the mask mandate but others who would try his approach.

For most Benicia residents, the move would likely not be a problem. County data shows that 85.8% of Benicia residents ages 12 and older have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, second only to the city of Rio Vista, where 91.8% have been vaccinated.

In August, the Benicia City Council imposed mask mandates and in September, the council extended virtual council meetings until at least November. But IT staff for Benicia has been working on a hybrid model of meeting that would be both in-person and virtual.

City staff in Benicia are vaccinated at roughly the same rate as the rest of the city. According to data obtained via a public records request, 83.8% of city staff has been vaccinated for COVID-19.

But that is much lower for police and firefighters. While Benicia’s police force has a higher rate of vaccination than other area departments, only 73% of police officers are vaccinated. That rate is even lower for firefighters, who are only 64.7% vaccinated.

Meanwhile, 90% of non-sworn police staff and 100% of non-sworn fire department staff are vaccinated.

Most counties in the Bay Area imposed a mask mandate over the summer during a COVID-19 surge driven by the highly infectious Delta variant, but Solano County opted not to.

As COVID spread has declined more recently, Marin County has eased its mask mandate, while other counties are easing it in some circumstances, such as at private events where vaccination status has been confirmed for all attendees.

Benicia’s city council will meet to discuss the mask mandate, among other business, at 6 p.m. on Nov. 16.

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