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Poll: 4 in 5 Inland voters favor requiring masks to fight coronavirus

Poll: 4 in 5 Inland voters favor requiring masks to fight coronavirus

Four in five Inland voters support requiring face coverings inside public spaces, according to a new poll that finds widespread support for coronavirus restrictions in a region where anti-mask sentiments and elected officials’ objections to state COVID-19 orders have been well-publicized.

The late January poll from UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies and Othering & Belonging Institute also found strong support for temporarily limiting restaurants to offering take-out and delivery orders only and restricting places of worship to outdoor-only services. The institute’s stated goal is identifying and eliminating “barriers to an inclusive, just, and sustainable society in order to create transformative change.”

Michael Gomez Daily, director of IE United, an Ontario-based civic group that’s in a research partnership with the Othering institute, said in a news release that the poll “validates what we have seen in the community.”

“Now that we have evidence of this, we hope our county elected officials change their rhetoric, and focus on doing what is right for the community: listening to science and approaching recovery and reopening in a responsible manner.”

The poll’s results, released Monday, Feb. 22, come as COVID-19 metrics improve in the Inland Empire and statewide. San Bernardino and Riverside counties have been among the hardest hit by the pandemic, ranking second and third in California, respectively, with more than 557,000 confirmed cases combined as of Monday, according to the state Department of Public Health.

Riverside County — the state’s fourth most-populated — ranks third in the state with 3,664 deaths as of Monday. San Bernardino County, the fifth most-populated in California, is fifth in the state with 2,637 deaths as of Monday.

More conservative politically than the Bay Area or Los Angeles County, the Inland Empire saw impassioned protests last year over COVID-19 business closures. In May, scores of people testified at two marathon hearings as Riverside County supervisors debated whether to end the county’s local mask mandate.

Supervisors eventually asked the county’s public health officer to lift his mask order. San Bernardino County lifted a similar mandate at the same time.

Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco has gained national attention for his refusal to enforce COVID-19 restrictions. In December, San Bernardino County sued to block Gov. Gavin Newsom’s statewide stay-at-home order. A judge dismissed the lawsuit in January.

Reacting to the poll, Bianco said via email that it “directly supports what I have been saying all along. Riverside County residents are responsible enough to wear masks without having to be arrested.”

He added: “If over 80 percent are wearing masks, someone wants us all to believe the remaining small percent are responsible for the spread? I don’t think the results of this poll say what they are trying to lead everyone to believe. I will not change my position and the overwhelming majority of Riverside County supports me in that decision.”

The poll of more than 10,000 Californians deliberately over-sampled Inland voters as part of a “multi-year research agenda” launched in January 2019, Joshua Clark of the Othering institute said via email. The Inland subsample had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5%, he said.

According to the poll, 82% of Inland voters surveyed, including 75% of whites and 89% of people of color, back the mask requirement for public spaces and retail stores. Eighty-six percent said it was very or somewhat important that local officials set an example by wearing masks in public.

Sixty-four percent of those polled favored temporarily limiting restaurants to take-out or delivery orders, while 63% supported requiring in-person religious services to be outdoors-only in their county. Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down California’s ban on indoor religious services.

When asking about restaurant and church service restrictions, the survey did not ask respondents how long they would want the rules to be in effect.

The poll found 74% percent of Inland voters, including 83% of Latino/Latina voters and 65% of white voters, said they were concerned about getting infected with COVID-19. For households earning less than $ 40,000, 83% were concerned about getting and spreading the virus compared to just 67% for households making $ 100,000 or more.

In a phone interview, San Bernardino County Supervisor Curt Hagman said he wasn’t surprised at the poll’s results, since the virus became more real and serious for residents as the pandemic wore on.

Hagman, the board chairman, rejected the idea that the poll shows elected officials are out of step with their constituents on how the pandemic should be handled. Rescinding the local mask mandate, he said, was about making sure there weren’t added layers of bureaucracy on top of the statewide mask order.

The lawsuit, Hagman said, was about local control.

“We want to make decisions on the local level based on the geographic size of on our county and based on the data we have on a day-to day basis,” he said, adding that certain parts of the county weren’t as hard-hit by the virus and applying a one-size-fits-all statewide order didn’t make sense.

Riverside County Supervisor Karen Spiegel said her board’s decision to end the county’s mask order wasn’t about the appropriateness of requiring masks. It was about getting in line with state mandates so the county didn’t stand in the way of reopening, she said.

“We have always encouraged masks,” said Spiegel, adding that she wears a mask in public.

CORONAVIRUS POLL

A poll by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies, in partnership with UC Berkeley’s Othering & Belonging Institute, found 82% of Inland voters support requiring masks in public.

Here are other numbers from the late-January survey:

86% — Think local elected officials should wear masks in public.

64% — Favor temporarily limiting restaurants in their county to take-out or delivery orders only.

63% — Favor requiring places of worship to limit in-person services to outdoor settings.


Press Enterprise