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Residents and city leaders react to lifted COVID restrictions slowly regressing

Over the past several weeks COVID cases have been on the rise in Riverside County and across the state. Despite June 15 marking the state's reopening, many cities, counties and businesses have began implementing their own restrictions as concerns over the Delta variant grow.

Last week Riverside County public health officials recommended people wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status.

This week Palm Springs City Council passed new precautions at an emergency special meeting to respond to alarming transmission trends with COVID-19. Vaccines will be required for customers to go inside at restaurants and bars. Those who don't want to get vaccinated can show proof of a negative Covid test from within 72 hours. The change will take effect within three weeks.

Palm Springs city leaders also brought back a mask mandate when indoors in public as well.

The city of Desert Hot Springs closely followed suit in taking action by requiring masks inside its city hall.

"I think, like everybody, it’s getting more serious. You’re seeing the new strain," Desert Hot Springs Mayor Pro Tem Russell Betts said.

The situation has prompted the regression of guidelines that previously lifted.

"We had opened up for our city council chambers for meetings but we’ve now just gone to virtual for commissions and council so no more public is allowed inside," Betts said.

Betts said the rules changed just within the last few days.

We reached out to other cities around the valley to see what their current stance is.

Cathedral City, Palm Desert, La Quinta, and Coachella city leaders told News Channel 3 they will all align with the county and state.

Cathedral City Mayor Raymond Gregory responded:

Cathedral City has been following State and County guidelines, which for now recommend all persons wear a face mask while indoors regardless of vaccination status. Yesterday the City Manager, as Cathedral City’s Director of Emergency Services, issued a directive requiring face masks be worn by everyone while inside a city facility, effective immediately.

We have our regular city council meeting next Wednesday evening. There is an item on the agenda already to review our emergency actions related to COVID-19. I anticipate we will discuss our current stance on masks and decide whether further adjustments are needed. I also anticipate some discussion on the vaccination status of the city’s employee groups and whether we should move forward on stricter vaccination requirements.

A response from Palm Desert Mayor Pro Tem Jan Harnik read: "Palm Desert is following Riverside County guidelines and mandates. The city is doing daily check-ins on numbers and trends and discussing and evaluating possible needs. City employees are required to wear masks in city hall and visitors in city hall are encouraged to wear masks."

Coachella Mayor Steven Hernandez responded by saying "throughout the pandemic, the city of Coachella has moved in lock step with the county of Riverside's health department recommendations. We will continue to do so as this pandemic continues. We would like to remind everyone that delta is spreading especially with those people who are not vaccinated. Please do your part and get vaccinated."

Meanwhile, Riverside County will not be any more restrictive than the state any time soon, according to a county spokesperson.

"We’re absolutely seeing numbers increase and it’s definitely something we’re monitoring very closely and we’re taking action where it’s appropriate," said Shane Reichardt, Sr. Public Information Specialist for the Riverside County Emergency Management Department.

Valley residents and visitors who spoke to News Channel 3 expressed mixed reactions.

"I feel that if everyone were to get vaccinated we wouldn’t be in this situation," visitor, Trudy Beane said.

"I want to cry a little bit inside. I don’t want to be looked at as someone who breaks the rules and puts other people at risk so I just do it," Cathedral City resident, Jason Peters said.

"I think they have to do what they have to do but I think it’s very inconsistent and I think as residents you still have a right. People are vaccinated and they say you can go in and then all of a sudden whether you’re vaccinated or not, you have to wear a mask," visitor, Raquel Worley said.

We asked Palm Desert salon owner Jeffrey Alan whether he would like to see Palm Desert do the same as Palm Springs in mandating masks indoors.

"It’s a toss up, I think with how this variant is spreading I don’t really know. I think it would be safe to do that. There’s a double-edged sword to that-- people feel like we’ve been through it-- we’ve been vaccinated and it’s not as bad. I’ve had friends who’ve been vaccinated and got COVID. So you hear both sides, but I wouldn’t mind the mandate," Alan said.

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Shelby Nelson


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