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Letter: Anti-mask law good for our lives, and our safety

The law mandates that we wear safety belts when we travel in cars and trucks. Smoking in restaurants is outlawed. People are required to wear helmets when riding motorcycles

Why? Public safety. Were these laws first met with immediate, universal acclaim years ago? No. People made the same arguments against those mandates back in the day that some are making today while refusing to wear masks.

COVID-19 is not going away soon in California. With the state reopening and people protesting in the streets, thousands of new cases are reported daily. The death toll is climbing. Twice as many people in our country have died from this horrible disease in the last four months than died from “the flu” in the preceding twelve months. The projections indicate that 200,000 Americans may die by this fall. And the second wave of the virus will hit us after that during flu season. The average age of a person testing positive with the disease is now in his/her thirties. And, contrary to the earlier “wisdom”, many are surviving with permanent lung damage or are tragically dying.

Health care professionals and scientists repeatedly tell us that if we wear masks in public, then we’re protecting others from whatever we may have and inadvertently share when we speak, laugh, sneeze or yell. I show you respect when I wear a mask in public. I’m willing to inconvenience myself to protect you or someone you care about.

The United States Supreme Court ruled a month ago that Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order precluding social gatherings, including church services, was a valid exercise of his constitutional authority in protecting the safety and health of Californians, that he has the obligation to guard and protect fellow citizens, and that he has broad authority to do so when acting relative to medical and scientific uncertainties. The court has ruled similarly in two other cases during the preceding one hundred years.

There are those who suggest that if 100 people can be in a Walmart store at the same time then 100 people should be able to sing together in a house of worship. Let’s think about this logically. How many times have you and 99 family members and/or friends arrived at Walmart at 11 a.m. on Sunday planning to spend an hour or so together to buy a television? Never. Most of the 100 people who might be in that Walmart store at the same time show up and leave at different times individually, meander different aisles, and spend, what, ten or twenty minutes in the store? That’s not how church services work, is it? Apples and oranges.

Local first responders have done an outstanding job of protecting us during fire seasons. The COVID-19 pandemic is a public safety threat from which we deserve to be protected as well. But we have noticed that a few elected sheriffs in central California have said that they won’t enforce the order to wear masks. Their stated reasons tend to highlight their political views. However, each one took office by swearing an oath to faithfully discharge constitutional orders. The highest court in our country just ruled that our governor’s orders regarding the pandemic are constitutional. We expect our sheriffs to follow and enforce the law. Protect and serve. I, having been a constitutional officer, say that fully appreciating its difficulty.

However, what we have learned is that people who objected to wearing seatbelts and helmets chose to comply when they were cited and fined. Perhaps a few well publicized examples (without names) would help if governments would pass appropriate laws.

And on the subject of money, the governor and the legislature will apparently hold back up to one billion dollars in federal aid from counties that don’t comply with federal and state pandemic requirements, including the wearing of masks. Sheriffs, other local officials and the rest of us should truly be on the same page when “we are all in this together”.

Lastly, the science tells us that the virus attacks people of color two to three times more often than the rest of the population. Law enforcement efforts enforcing the wearing of masks might disproportionately save the lives of people of color. Wouldn’t that be a positive outcome?

It all comes back to you and me, though. Wearing a mask in public is supported by science, state law, the United States Supreme Court, the distribution of revenue, common sense, respect for others and life and death. I hope to see you wearing a mask.

— Charles A. Wieland,

Retired Madera County Superior Court Judge,


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