Members of the Riverbank City Council unanimously passed a resolution strongly recommending the public to wear a face mask or covering while out in public to limit the spread of COVID-19. The action came at the most recent city council meeting, April 28. The highly contagious virus has spread globally and numbers of deaths and confirmed cases continues to rise. The item was on the agenda directly after the Assistant City Manager Marisela Garcia delivered the general local COVID-19 health update.
City staff plans to provide the city council with a local health update at each city council meeting for discussion as the situation involving the pandemic can change on a consistent basis. Garcia explained that as of Tuesday, April 28 there were 236 confirmed cases within Stanislaus County and 10 of those in Riverbank. The city has taken precautions since March to flatten the curve by closing city offices, parks, implementing social distancing, sheltering in place and the closure of non-essential businesses and schools.
The Recreation Department created a “Senior Check In” program that Garcia noted has been well received. City staff contacts the senior citizens by phone to ascertain their status and dependent on their needs refer them to services and resources.
There was a lengthy discussion regarding the reopening of the parks that has been tabled until the next meeting on Tuesday, May 12. With summer right around the corner and warmer days ahead, Jacob Myers Park has been a destination for many not only in Riverbank but surrounding cities and the sheltering in place has many concerned that people are getting “stir crazy.” The importance of opening the parks was understood by all members of the council but the timing of when to open was a bit more contentious. Mayor Richard O’Brien and Councilmember Cindy Fosi were both in agreement that the parks including Jacob Myers Park need to be open sooner rather than later. Vice Mayor Luis Uribe shared his concern about the city staff and the public with the spread if the parks open too soon.
The discussion of whether to wear a mask or face covering of some kind has caused controversy throughout the country becoming more of an issue between public health and personal liberty. While many in the state have rallied to seek a reopening now, there are also businesses like Costco that have made it mandatory for anyone that wants to enter the store that they must be wearing a face mask. Businesses in Riverbank are allowed to make their own requirements.
The City of Riverbank plans to comply with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to wear face masks that cover the nose and mouth while out in public. City staff recommends the public, not only residents, but anyone who visits the city to wear cloth/fabric face coverings as N-95 masks or medical grade equipment is discouraged.
The mayor expressed that he believes it should be an individual decision and does not want people to get a false sense of security by wearing masks or gloves as they should still continue social distancing and washing their hands. Councilmember Darlene Barber-Martinez stated that they strongly recommend people to wear masks in public for the health of others.
The numbers as of May 4 are 428 positive cases in Stanislaus County, 15 related deaths, 267 recovered cases, and 6234 negative tests, according to Stanislaus County Health Services Agency at schsa.org.