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Sun City Summerlin ends its mask policy amid controversy

Updated June 2, 2021 - 8:36 am

To get in step with much of Clark County, Sun City Summerlin’s Community Association ended its policy requiring residents to present their COVID-19 vaccination cards or mask up before entering community facilities.

The association’s board of directors voted to end the policy Tuesday, the same day that occupancy restrictions on businesses and social distancing requirements were lifted across Clark County.

“I don’t see any justification for why we should be more restrictive than Clark County or the state of Nevada,” board member John Berthelsen said. “I think we would have a huge pushback from a number of our residents if we tried to do that.”

The master-planned community for people 55 and older created its requirement following federal guidance May 13 that fully vaccinated people no longer needed to wear a mask in most indoor and outdoor settings. The guidance immediately became the rule in Nevada, but without a mechanism for enforcing mask-wearing among the unvaccinated.

Under the state policy, businesses and organizations are allowed to require proof of vaccination, if they so choose, which is what Sun City temporarily did. But now the master-planned community will be going to the honor system, as many other enterprises have done.

The state policy also allows businesses to impose stricter policies, such as requiring all employees and patrons to wear masks regardless of vaccination status.

As in much of the country, the issue of mask-wearing stirred controversy in Sun City Summerlin, an older population more susceptible to complications from COVID-19. Mitzi Mills, the association’s executive director, said that 300 people had sent in comments on the agenda item.

In mid-May, Mills sent a newsletter to community subscribers that said some residents in “rude, accusing and rebellious emails” had vowed not to wear a mask or show a vaccination card at community centers and other facilities.

Board member Leo Crawford, who cast the lone dissenting vote Tuesday, said that slightly more than half of the residents who had submitted comments on the agenda item favored keeping the requirement in place. Many of them had underlying health conditions that put them at greater risk from the virus, he said.

Following the meeting, board president Dick Clark said that as the governor and the county made it more clear that the broader community would be opening up, opinions in the community evolved.

An increasing number of residents had told him that they wanted the requirement dropped.

Despite the large number of comments submitted, just three residents appeared in person to speak to the board, including Ann Warhaftig. “I don’t believe in the honor system” for keeping people safe, she told the board.

Following the meeting, the 78-year-old said she thought the action by the board was “terrible.”

“If you’re vaccinated, you should have no problem showing the card,” she said.

Clark believes the matter is settled, at least for now.

“I think it’s done unless the governor or the county comes back and says to us, ‘We suggest or recommend or mandate that restrictions be put on.’ Then we’ll do that.”

Contact Mary Hynes at mhynes@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0336. Follow @MaryHynes1 on Twitter.

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