The Florida sheriff prevented lawmakers from wearing faceplates in most working conditions, authorities said Wednesday, even as the state continues to fight record coronavirus numbers.
Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods insisted there was no conclusive evidence that wearing masks limited the spread of the virus – despite explicit CDC guidelines that say just that.
“I can now hear the whining and just know that I didn’t make that decision easily and weighed it in the last two weeks,” Woods said in a message to officials and provided to NBC News by the sheriff̵
“We can discuss and argue all day why and why not. The fact is that the number of professionals who give a reason why they should, I can find exactly the same number of professionals who say why they shouldn’t.”
The policy applies to all 900 employees of the department,, and Woods said his decision was final.
“This is no longer a debate, nor is it for discussion,” he wrote.
Marion County, with a population of about 365,000, is in the heart of Florida’s Horse County. The county seat is in Ocala, about 40 miles south of Gainesville.
The city of Ocala has its own police force of about 300 officers, about a third of whom are sworn law enforcement officers.
The department, the second largest police agency in Marion County, has no policy that explicitly imposes or prohibits the use of a mask by employees – but “encourages” employees and civilian workers to wear faceplates, an OPD spokesman said Wednesday.
The Sheriff Woods Directive contains several settings that would require masks, such as in hospitals, nursing homes, courts, schools, prisons, or COVID-19 “warning to send from sending.”
Woods expects a warning from the community and told officials to stay away from anyone who criticizes his measure.
“If at any time you encounter someone who complains, beats you, or is just a difficult individual, you will politely and professionally tell them, ‘I don’t have to wear a mask, nor will I, in the sheriff’s order,’ and then get away from them, “the sheriff wrote.
“From now on, it will be my burden and responsibility to take care of the person and answer their problem, complaint or their question.”
The policy will be in full force in all sheriff’s buildings and civilians entering this office will be banned from wearing a mask.
If this civilian does not want to be left without a mask, he or she will be asked to leave the building and leave a cell phone number so that they can call and be invited back when the sheriff’s officer is free to meet with them.
“In the light of current events, when it comes to sentiment and / or hatred of law enforcement in our country today, this is done to ensure that there is clear communication and to identify the goals of everyone who enters the lobby. “All of our lobbies have glass barriers between you and them that the virus cannot magically pass through.”
A spokesman for the Florida Department of Health in Marion County declined to comment immediately on Wednesday.
The mask debate also erupted in Ocala City Council chambers after Mayor Kent Gwyn vetoed an ordinance requiring face masks in every business in the city.
However, the council voted 4-1 on Wednesday to lift the mayor’s veto and make face-to-face coverage mandatory.