Despite uptick in infections, Huntington Beach moves to ban COVID-19 vaccine and mask mandates

People walking in Huntington Beach
The Huntington Beach City Council voted Tuesday night to ban implementing COVID-19 vaccine and mask requirements in the city. The ban applies to city personnel and not to private businesses in the city.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

As a new wave of COVID-19 infections hits the region, the Huntington Beach City Council voted this week to ban the implementation of COVID vaccine and mask requirements in the city.

The City Council approved the motion, which was introduced by Mayor Pro Tem Gracey Van Der Mark, in a 4-3 vote Tuesday.

The motion asserted that the mask mandates that were previously imposed in the city “unnecessarily limited the freedoms of the citizens of Huntington Beach, even those who were not around anyone who tested positive for COVID-19 or at risk of any exposure.” The ban applies to city personnel and not to private businesses in the city.


The motion also requires the city manager to return to the council at the next meeting with a formal resolution for adoption, declaring the city a “no mask and no vaccine mandate city.”

“Individuals, whether at City Hall or in the private sector, should have a right to choose whether to wear a mask or get vaccinated or boosted,” according to the motion.

Officials had expressed concern that BA.2.86, or Pirola, might be able to more easily infect those who had received older vaccines or had caught the coronavirus before.

Sept. 6, 2023

But Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley said in a statement that the resolution lacks authority “because the state sets health policies for California” and is the only entity that can order public health orders.

“The reality is COVID is increasing, but it’s mostly impacting seniors who are immunocompromised and little kids, but we have so many resources available now to residents,” she continued. “They can go to their local drug store, their own doctor, a community clinic. No matter what the city they live in, those resources will continue to be available. If people choose to wear masks, that is their choice.”

Orange County has seen a recent influx of positive COVID cases, according to county health data. The positivity rate was 17.6% on Aug. 29, compared to a 15.8% rate about a month earlier.

The positivity rate across California for coronavirus cases was 13.4% on Aug. 25, an increase from the beginning of the summer when the rate hovered around 4%.


Experts say coronavirus cases have increased over the summer due to an uptick in summer travel, an increase of activities occurring without masks and that it has been months since most residents received booster shots.

In the Los Angeles area, a number of work sites in the entertainment industry have experienced outbreaks recently, including the Directors Guild of America, “The Masked Singer” studio at Red Studios Hollywood, Lionsgate Entertainment in Santa Monica and Walt Disney Feature Animation in Burbank, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.