The Bellevue City Council was divided over the need for mask mandates or resolutions on Monday, deciding to approve neither. Yet all council members stated that the increased risk of COVID transmission was a real public health concern.
Mayor Ned Burns said the situation is dire, but that based on how the city’s previous mask order failed to trigger compliance, he doubted whether it would be wise to institute another one.
“We have no effective enforcement mechanism,” said Burns, who suggested implementing a resolution encouraging mask use instead.
City Councilman Greg Cappel vehemently disagreed.
“Resolutions are a bunch of verbal BS,” Cappel said. “We are heading down a bad road, and we will see a mounting death count. A mask mandate is the only thing that is going to keep people from getting sick and dying.”
City Councilman Shaun Mahoney, who owns a restaurant on Main Street, expressed disgust at the high number of people in Bellevue who apparently refuse to get vaccinated, yet he refused to approve a mask mandate.
“All of my staff are vaccinated,” Mahoney said. “That this whole thing has become political is just stupid, but I am not going to tell people they can’t come into the restaurant unless they have a mask on.”
City Councilwoman Jennifer Rangel said it was “sad” that all the ICU beds are filling up but did not indicate whether or not she would support a mask mandate.
City Councilman Doug Brown said after all the education and outreach about vaccines, there was little left for elected officials to do.
“People have drawn their ideological lines,” Burns said.
City Councilman Chris Johnson, who has opposed mask mandates in the past as unenforceable, said he has had “every vaccine known to man” but did not support a mask mandate. He supported writing citations for violations during the city’s mask mandate order last year.
“I believe the science,” Johnson said. “We should issue a statement that says we highly encourage the use of masks and encourage people to get vaccines, to take care of your neighbor.”
Johnson recommended extending the city’s emergency powers ordinance on Sept. 20, at 4 p.m., which would facilitate the mayor’s ability to institute a mask mandate or take another action at that time.
The City Council and mayor agreed and made plans to review the situation at that time.
“Extending the emergency order would give us the ability to do something in an expedited manner, if the council deems it necessary,” Burns said.