County puts Grass Valley restaurant on notice for not complying with mask mandate | TheUnion.com
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County puts Grass Valley restaurant on notice for not complying with mask mandate

After Gov. Gavin Newsom instituted a statewide mask mandate in mid-June, substantial pushback occurred locally, with some local customers arguing they should be allowed to shop without having to wear a mask. But until recently, local businesses that refused to comply suffered mainly from being called out on social media.

On Thursday that all changed, when Valentina Masterz of Valentina’s Organic Bistro and Bakery in Grass Valley was served with a notice to comply or close.

The notice, signed by Nevada County Director of Environmental Health Amy Irani, notified the bistro that it was not operating in compliance with current COVID-19 Workplace Specific Plan requirements. The Thursday notice gave the restaurant 24 hours to implement the plan in writing, and warned that failure to do so will result in closure.

The county’s website indicates that some of the requirements that must be followed include a temperature scan for employees prior to beginning a shift, and requiring face coverings to be worn by all staff who interact with the public, and when they are unable to social distance from other employees.

“All the restaurants we have worked with so far have been willing to come in to compliance with state mandates for their employees’ and customers’ safety as we work together to keep our community safe through COVID-19,” Irani said via email. “Protecting the community and limiting the spread of COVID-19 is our shared responsibility.”

According to Irani, the goal is to achieve compliance through education.

“If we receive continued complaints, we continue to work with our facility operators to try and gain compliance,” she said. “Our last resort would be to suspend the operational permit if the business continues to not be willing to come into compliance for community and employee health and safety.”

LIABILITY

The county’s Environmental Health department has worked with more than 100 restaurants since the mandate went into effect, and all have been receptive to following the checklist and mandates from the state. Irani said.

“We have worked with Valentina’s for many weeks, and hope they will as well,” she said. “Our community’s health and safety is our first priority, and if we all work together to limit the spread, it will help keep our businesses open without further restrictions from the state.”

Masterz argued her decision not to enforce the mask mandate was financial, not political. She cited an occasion recently when, she said, a Safeway employee pushing shopping carts passed out while wearing a mask.

“If (my employees) get hurt at work, I’m financially liable,” she said. “The bottom line is, the state and the county are giving us these orders but they’re not backing us financially. … We would comply if we had financial backup.”

Masterz said her employees told her they didn’t want to be masked.

Masterz claimed wearing a mask depletes a wearer’s oxygen level, which could cause them to have a stroke or even just pass out, possibly striking their head.

“Why would I want that on my conscience?” she said.

Masterz said she tried to give Irani a form asking the county to accept “full liability for any and all consequential physical or psychological health issues” caused by “forced or coerced mask usage.” Irani declined to sign it, Masterz said.

“They’ve giving the orders, but expecting us to take financial responsibility,” she said. “That’s my stand. It’s not about politics. … We are being bullied by the health department.”

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.


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