The mayor of Nevada City, in a controversial social media post, suggested that Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent order for all Californians to wear masks when in public was not legitimate.
Mayor Reinette Senum wrote Saturday morning that Newsom’s orders could not be enforced by law, and that no action can legally be taken against offenders.
“As you go about your day today, KNOW there is NO LAW that Orders you to Wear a Mask. Our Governor does NOT have that unilateral power to make such orders,” Senum said. “Ask our local Police chief or officers. They will not, and cannot, cite ANYBODY for not wearing a mask because the law does not exist.”
On Thursday, in response to a surge in coronavirus cases across the state as economic restrictions are rolled back, Newsom announced new rules through the California Department of Public Health intended to reduce viral transmission.
“When you come across Newsom’s ‘orders’ online, you will see it’s linked to a page that does not lead you to his Executive Order, BUT to the California Department of Public Health GUIDELINES!,” she said. “Again, NOBODY can be forced to wear a mask outside, in a business, or as an employee or customer.”
While the new CDPH rules are technically termed ‘guidance,’ a previous executive order issued by Newsom that required Californians to follow public health guidelines grants the state the ability to enforce CDPH rules.
However, Newsom has largely avoided that tactic, instead openly relying on voluntary acceptance among Californians to implement his various coronavirus response measures.
A notable exception was the Newsom administration’s use of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control in April to shut down restaurants and bars that had reopened for in-person service despite state orders prohibiting them from doing so, even threatening to revoke licenses from defiant offenders.
As a result of Newsom’s broadly lax approach, many local law enforcement jurisdictions have refused to enforce stay-at-home orders and other measures, including the recent mask order.
The Nevada City Police Department cited the statement previously made by the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office regarding enforcement procedures on Saturday as an indication that it would be following the lead set forth by the Sacramento agency.
The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office, along with Sacramento police, Placer County deputies, Roseville police and Placerville police, will not be enforcing Newsom’s mask order.
Yolo County, which has had a localized mask order since late April, will continue enforcement against businesses that do not comply with mask orders.
Nevada City police, acknowledged the “recent order by Governor Newsom for all Californians to wear face masks while out in public” as well as “a slight uptick in COVID-19 cases,” but ultimately sympathized with the educational approach adopted by the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office.
While Nevada County has kept its coronavirus numbers low, it has seen significant increases in infections recently. Although only 75 people have been infected and just one person has died as of Saturday, nearly a third of all cases are still active and more are being added each day, according county health officials. Between April 28 and June 1, Nevada County’s total infections remained static, at 41 total cases. So far this month, health officials have reported an increase in cases of nearly 83 percent. On Wednesday, a new record for daily increases was set after 10 new cases were reported.
Senum’s stance against Newsom’s mask order is the latest in a series of social media posts questioning coronavirus response measures. Last week, she posted a CNN news article that suggested asymptomatic transmission may be rarer than expected. The article quoted an official from the World Health Organization — which just this week officially endorsed the use of masks to fight the spread of coronavirus.
“We do NOT have to be in so much fear around Covid,” she said.
Hours after news organizations published WHO’s statements on the virus’ spread, officials clarified that scientists have not determined yet how frequently people with asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 pass the disease on to others.
Earlier this month, Senum quoted from a blog post that read, in part: “locking down society was a bone-headed policy decision so devastating to society that historians may judge it as the all-time worst decision ever made. … The lockdowns will cause more death and destruction than COVID-19 ever did.” This same blog, written by author J.B. Handley, has other posts questioning the efficacy of vaccines and advocating for various autism treatments.
Reaction to Senum’s latest post regarding the masks was mixed. Some chimed in to support her stance, while others questioned the mayor.
“This is entirely irresponsible,” Carol Yoder wrote in the comments.
In 2016, Senum said that the killing of five Dallas police officers by a sniper was incited by the police themselves. In response, the Nevada City Police Officers Association called for her resignation.
More recently, Senum’s conduct was called into question in December after a series of critical social media posts regarding the power shutoffs imposed in Nevada City by PG&E in response to the threat of wildfires. She apologized publicly for the comments and avoided being stripped of her title by Nevada City’s Council, which accused her of misrepresenting the city.