Florida Sheriff Orders Employees Not to Wear Masks

August 12, 2020 Updated: August 12, 2020

A Florida sheriff barred employees from wearing masks in certain places amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My order will stand as is when you are on-duty/working as my employee and representing my Office—masks will not be worn,” Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods told employees in an email published by the Ocala Star-Banner.

If workers are confronted, the employee should “politely and professionally tell them I am not required to wear a mask nor will I, per the Order of the Sheriff,” and walk away, the sheriff wrote, adding: “From that point on it will be my burden and responsibility to take care of the person and answer their problem, complaint or their question.”

Exceptions to the policy include officers working at the courthouse, the jail, in schools, and in hospitals, though they are required to remove masks when taking an enforcement action that needs an order or command.

An assistant to Woods didn’t answer the phone on Wednesday and her voicemail was full.

The Ocala City Council passed an ordinance last week requiring people to wear masks but Mayor Kent Guinn, a Republican, vetoed it on Monday.

The council was holding an emergency meeting this week to consider overriding the veto.

Guinn reportedly took the action because he said it was too hard for law enforcement officials to enforce.

“My chief and I have talked about it. We will never write a fine. We’re just not going to do it,” Guinn told Sky 97.3 FM, according to the Star-Banner.

Woods said in a recent interview with the same station that one of the reasons for the new ban was anti-police sentiment and concerns people could enter the sheriff’s office while obscuring their identity.

“I have no way of identifying them. Justice will not be served,” he said.

Some health experts say wearing a mask can help prevent transmission of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes the COVID-19 disease. Others are unsure, pointing to the dearth of studies proving the masks stop transmission of the new virus.

Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has opted not to issue a statewide mask mandate but has encouraged people to don face coverings when out in public.

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