SOUTH LAKE TAHOE (CBS13) — The hardest-hit region of El Dorado County is taking a new approach when it comes to mask mandates.
Volunteers with the city of South Lake Tahoe are walking the city, looking for people who are not covered up and making sure they have a mask.
“When I came up with the idea I said, ‘Let’s see if we could get a way for people to comply politely, instead of the big hammer approach,'” said Former Mayor Tom Davis.
The volunteers, dubbed safety ambassadors, are equipped with flyers and free masks to encourage residents and visitors to comply with statewide mask mandates.
“I want to keep my town open and safe. And our visitors coming in safe. That’s critical to us. We all live on tourism in this town,” Davis said.
“You would’ve thought that we would have to do a lot more interactions. We have had a few people who said ‘No I don’t care for one’ but, for the most part, they actually say ‘Oh, sure, I’ll take one,'” explained safety ambassador Doug Williams.
The South Lake Tahoe area makes up 353 of El Dorado County’s total 729 cases. Ambassadors say 90% of people they encounter are complying, while some who are not covering up avoid or ignore their suggestions altogether. They say the majority of the people are thankful for the reminder.
“I think it is a great idea. What you are doing is you are teaching us and reminding us that there is danger out there,” said Siavash Madarsolouk, a South Lake Tahoe visitor.
The group is hoping to secure 20 ambassadors to help them spread the word.
“I think showing them you can still have a good time, you could still do the things you want, just don’t forget your mask, and if you forgot one we are happy to give you one,” said Gina Bell from Sacramento.
Some people are not too thrilled with the approach.
“I don’t think any government, local government, or state or anybody should make it mandatory for someone to wear a mask. I think it should be your personal preference. If you want to wear it, wear it. If not, then don’t wear it,” said Greg Blades visiting from Pleasanton.
The city provides free masks for residents and visitors. The ambassador group said they will not report any violations from people or businesses. They plan to go to more populated spots around the city at least twice a week. They say they will continue the program for as long as it takes.