Langley council discusses bringing back mask mandate

Council members decided to hold out on the decision until after receiving input from businesses.

Although city council members came close to reviving a previous mask mandate in Langley, they ultimately decided to hold out on the decision until after receiving more input from business owners, which might prompt a special meeting.

Two weeks ago, the council agreed on a mask recommendation that strongly encouraged businesses to require that their employees and customers mask up, even if they were vaccinated.

At a meeting Monday night, with COVID-19 cases on the rise in Island County, the council debated the merits of returning to the former mandate, which was revoked in June but does carry more weight than the new recommendation.

Mayor Scott Chaplin pointed to two incidents that happened recently at the Langley Whale Center as a cause for concern. The museum is staffed by volunteers, some of them high school students.

On Sunday, a 16-year-old student intern had two frightful encounters with people coming into the museum who refused to wear a mask. The belligerent individuals argued about their “Constitutional right” to not wear a mask.

In one of the situations, an off-duty law enforcement officer had to intervene and put herself in between the young volunteer and the agitated visitor, who was refusing to leave the building and called 911 on the Langley Whale Center.

“I was disturbed to see adults behaving like that towards children,” Chaplin said. “It’s very inappropriate.”

He pointed out that having a city-wide mask mandate that businesses could reference might make owners and employees feel more comfortable about asking customers to wear masks, rather than it being up to each individual business.

Inge Morascini, the executive director for the Langley Chamber of Commerce, said she would poll business owners about whether or not they wanted the mask mandate to be reinstated.

But with three more weeks to go until the next city council meeting, council members worried about what could happen with the pandemic between now and then.

“We don’t have a whole lot of open space in the downtown core,” Councilmember Thomas Gill said. “It’s a lot of 8-foot sidewalks and direct access to businesses.”

The council tentatively agreed to schedule an emergency meeting, possibly this Friday, if enough input comes in from the business community requesting that the mask mandate should be brought back.

An earlier version of this story stated that children under the age of 12 volunteer with the Langley Whale Center.

Children under 12 have not volunteered with the museum since the beginning of the pandemic.

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