A Florida sheriff is raising concern after instating a new mask mandate. According to the Washington Post, deputies in Marion County are no longer permitted to wear the now-controversial face coverings at work. The mandate also extends to visitors to the northern Florida office.
The decision by Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods comes at a time when Florida is reporting increased cases of COVID-19. On Tuesday, the state set a new daily record for deaths. As of Wednesday at 11 a.m., the number of people who have died from the virus in Florida stood at 8,765. In an e-mail shared with the Post and first reported by the Ocala Star-Banner, Woods wrote, “We can debate and argue all day of why and why not. The fact is, the amount of professionals that give the reason why we should, I can find the exact same amount of professionals that say why we shouldn’t.”
In April, New Jersey became one of the first states to require customers and employees to wear face coverings at essential businesses. That has since extended to public spaces including trains, buses and other forms of public transportation. The vast majority of states and Puerto Rico have since implemented their own requirements. A study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America in June showed that wearing a mask is the most effective way to stop person-to person spread. Still, police officers in cities throughout the country have sparked backlash for their inconsistent use of masks.
Woods is believed to be the first law enforcement officer to ban masks for his office. As of Tuesday, deputies in Marion County are to stop wearing masks in most cases. They are permitted to cover their face in hospitals, the courthouse, county jail and when dealing with people who are high risk or believed to have the sometimes fatal virus. The deputies must remove their masks immediately after excluding circumstances.
“This is no longer a debate nor is it up for discussion,” Woods wrote. “Please keep in mind this entire pandemic is fluid and constantly changing the way things are done. However, my orders will be followed or my actions will be swift to address.”