The councilmen have received support from the community following their decision

PASO ROBLES—Following the closed session of the Paso Robles City Council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 1, two Councilmen gave statements announcing they will no longer be wearing a mask. The two said they will participate in meetings virtually, while masks are still required by Mayor Steve Martin. 

Paso Robles Press followed up with Councilman John Hamon, who said his decision came after Mayor Martin said he would now request everyone to wear masks in the council chambers.

Councilman John Hamon

“We don’t wear masks anywhere else together,” said Hamon. “It’s more of a sign of compliance. That is the main reason that the County and the State and Federal are mandating it because it’s more of a control thing at this point. The masks do not keep the spread away from others.”

Getting through this together, Paso Robles

Councilman Hamon spoke with Mayor Martin prior to the meeting, informing the Mayor that he would make the statement and leave the meeting. However, neither of them knew Councilman Steve Gregory would also make the decision to leave the meeting.

Since the meeting, Councilman Hamon says he has received an outpouring of support from the community, “Our citizens are tired of this, and they need to see an elected official, somebody, say something. And that’s what I did.”

Councilman Gregory told Paso Robles Press that he had been thinking about making a stand against mandated masks for a while now. He notes that both he and Councilman Hamon have not been wearing masks to City Council meetings for weeks.

He says, “I’m very responsible about other people’s safety. I also respect anything that people want to do to protect themselves, but don’t mandate me to do something that isn’t going to do any good, in my opinion—the government is going too far.”

Councilman Gregory mentioned in his statement that the “maker of the mandate doesn’t do it [wear masks] himself,” and he says that is referring to Governor Newsom and other politicians who were photographed at an NFL football game on Sunday not wearing masks.

“It’s been long enough for the government to be overbearing about something that they shouldn’t be doing,” said Gregory, “and that is controlling our economy, using fear to scare people off the streets, out of their businesses, it’s slowing down our ability to deliver product—it’s all fear-mongering in my opinion.” 

The Councilman then raised more questions regarding the Federal Government’s response to COVID, “Why don’t we have full disclosure from the Federal Government on what they are doing with the Cares Act money? Why are they giving bonuses to hospitals for COVID treatment—why would you pay a hospital more to take care of one patient than another? One reason, because they have a political motivation.”

Both councilmen have received support from the community, commending them on their statements and the two hope their actions inspire others to follow their lead. As Councilman Gregory said, “More than anything else, it was freedom of speech.”

Paso Robles Press also followed up with Mayor Martin, who said, “I think John and Steve expressed their viewpoints pretty well. I think they made the responsible decision to attend the meeting virtually so they can participate all at the same time not wearing a mask so they can protect the public and the process.”

Councilman Steve Gregory

The Feb. 1 City Council Meeting

Before proceeding with the agenda, Mayor Martin announced he received a request from Councilman Hamon to make a statement:

“Out of respect for your position as our council leader and your request that masks will be worn in the council chambers, I will not be wearing a mask just because I think, again, the fact that some unelected officials mandate tells me to do so. I will also say that because of sound, common sense, personal reasons based on science, backed by nearly two years of covid data and also vaccinated twice and boosted once, I feel that masks give little protection and transmission. 

I am no longer concerned with contracting a severe case of COVID at this point because of the vaccinations I have taken, nor do I worry about others who are not vaccinated; out in public and unprotected where they might contract the virus just by simply touching a knob and then their face or maybe from somebody else that is vaccinated and might be carrying the virus. 

In my opinion, more people should question so-called authority on health issues, especially when the government will not even allow proven therapeutics like monoclonal antibody treatments to be used on high-risk positive cases. It’s also my opinion that we are at a point where government control has become more important than a cure. After 13 months of available vaccine, it is clear that mandates are causing more harm than good to both our economy and our children. I think it’s unwise to continue public harm and, of course, disruption to everybody. So, for these reasons and others, Mr. Mayor, I will not participate in tonight’s meeting, and I will recuse myself to another room where I can do it online.”

Councilman Hamon clarified that he will be participating in council meetings virtually from now on.

Following Councilman Hamon’s statement, Councilman Gregory gave his own statement:

“Mayor Martin, I concur with Councilman Hamon, and I respect everybody’s opinion to do what is best for them, but when the maker of the mandate doesn’t do it himself, and we don’t have a lot of science behind this, it’s time to get over this COVID issue that we’re having. 

I am vaccinated, I practice all of the protocols, I respect everybody else’s opinion on what they would like to do, but I can’t wear my maks anymore. It is disrupting my ability to communicate. I don’t think I’m at risk because two years and 13 tests and vaccinations and my vitamin protocol, I’m in good shape, and I’m not affecting anybody. I don’t think it’s appropriate for us not to be able to speak openly in this chamber as we are exercising our due diligence with spacing, and therefore I am going to also request that I move to a digital format.”

Councilman Fred Strong, who wears a transparent chin mask, gave his own statement:

“Philosophically, I have to agree with the statements already made; however, I do choose to still follow the rules that we are asking other people to follow, and therefore I will be here in this mask. Some people question whether this is a mask; it is a mask and provided by one of my doctors because I do have severe COPD and cannot breathe in the masks that are otherwise provided.”

Councilwoman Maria Garcia did not have any comments to follow the statements.

Mayor Martin then made his conclusions, “I thank everyone in the council for facilitating the continuance of the City’s business while at the same time respecting their own positions and being true to themselves. I want to report to the public, the remaining councilmembers, and everyone remaining in the room at this time does wear a mask.”

The meeting then broke for recess for the two councilmen to get set up to participate in the meeting virtually.