Visitors and residents at California's Huntington Beach have reportedly decided to forego face masks and are rejecting the notion that coronavirus rates are rising, despite claims from the media and certain state governments to the contrary.
One beachgoer, Brad Colburn, was interviewed by the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday and said the hype surrounding COVID-19 is being "inflated" due to politics.
“I don’t believe it. I don’t believe the rates are rising,” he said. “They’re inflated. It’s another way of shutting everything down ... of the Democrats trying to get what they want.”
Coburn, 58, told the newspaper he only wears a mask when he is out shopping and in close contact with other people. He said those who are afraid of the virus should refrain from going outdoors.
“If you don’t want to go outside, don’t go outside,” he added.
Some in Huntington are against the mandatory mask measures that have been taken by the state and see this as an opportunity to make a statement by not covering their faces, the Times reported.
The article went on to cite Fred Smoller, a professor of political science at Chapman University, who claimed Huntington Beach is a politically conservative bastion for people whose gripes go far beyond the handling of the coronavirus response.
“Their ideology is a lens through which they are viewing the coronavirus,” he said. “I would imagine many people there see it as a hoax, which the president has encouraged them to do in order to up his chance of reelection. I’m sure there’s quite a bit of animus toward the governor... They’re viewing [restrictions] as further evidence of the deep state and of an intrusive government.”
Huntington Beach Mayor Lyn Semeta emailed the Times a statement about how masks are “critical in keeping people healthy and helping our businesses operate safely in the limited capacity they are able to;" however, she also noted that some citizens feel their rights are being trampled on.
Semeta added that she's aware of those who are “uncomfortable with the use of face coverings.”
“I can certainly understand that sentiment," she explained. "However, while there is still much we are learning about this virus, health experts have come out strongly recommending face coverings as an effective measure that helps stop the spread of COVID-19."
This news comes just four days after Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, announced that state schools would need to meet certain safety thresholds in order to reopen for in-person classes. If they do not, children will have to rely on remote learning and online instruction.
The California Department of Public Health updated its guidance for schools on Friday, setting benchmark criteria that counties must clear for two weeks in order to reopen their schools. The only exception is that elementary schools can apply for waivers.
“Students, staff and parents all prefer in-classroom instruction, but only if it can be done safely,” Newsom said.
Fox News' Michael Ruiz contributed to this report