Should face coverings be mandatory on the Suncoast?

Mandatory Face Coverings?

SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) -With the state seeing another surge of COVID cases this week several local governments including Tampa are now requiring people to wear masks in public.

Face Coverings

Face coverings will help us reduce the spread of #COVID19, keep our economy open and protect our community. #FaceTheFactsTPA Learn more about the current Executive Order requiring the use of face coverings indoors in the City of Tampa here: tampagov.net/emergency-management/covid-19/face-covering

Posted by City of Tampa on Friday, June 19, 2020

Here on the Suncoast, it’s still a recommendation, at least for now.

Citywide public health emergency extended through June 26; Public again strongly urged to wear masks when leaving home

Posted by City of Sarasota, Government on Friday, June 19, 2020

We are now in month three of the coronavirus pandemic here in Florida.

Masks although not a requirement have been encouraged for weeks by state and local leaders in order to minimize transmission of the virus in close quarters.

As we’re hitting record daily numbers of new cases, which the Governor says are because of more testing, cities like St. Petersburg are now requiring business owners and employees to wear masks.

‪COVID-19 Update ‼️‬

Posted by City of St. Petersburg, Florida on Wednesday, June 17, 2020

“They have every right to do that. But they are then responsible for the enforcement of that. And our view has been that to attach criminal penalties would not be necessarily the right thing to do,” said Gov. DeSantis in Miami Friday afternoon.

DeSantis holds press conference

Gov. Ron DeSantis holds a press conference on COVID-19 in Miami

Posted by ABC7 Sarasota - WWSB on Friday, June 19, 2020

The City of Sarasota urges people to wear face masks. A representative told ABC 7 they have been talking about the mandatory face coverings and are looking into the legalities of doing so.

“If they can refuse to allow you to wear a mask and that was legal then it seems on the flip-side that they can require you as well. Not based on that statute but on that constitutional issue,” said Attorney Sara Blackwell.

She’s referring to Florida state statute 876.12 where you’re not allowed to hide a portion of your face with a mask. Statute 875.155 clarifies the mask statute applies to people with intent to intimidate.

So how would a situation like this even be enforced?

“They would come together, and they would make that an ordinance like a city ordinance. And that there would be a fine or come kind of retribution,” said Blackwell.

Miami Dade Mayor Carlos Giminez says they’ve been cracking down on businesses.

“Our police officers and code enforcement personnel. Governor we have conducted over 300-thousand business checks in the last month,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Gimenez.

City of North Port reps say they don’t have anything in place right now to require masks to be worn. City of Venice reps say they will look to the county to make the decision.

Blackwell says business owners making their employees wear masks is lawful unless the employee has a medical reason like asthma to not wear one

She also says it is legal in Florida for employers to fire an employee if they don’t wear a mask.

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