County leaders pushing for more education as cases rise across the state

Manatee County COVID-19 Update

SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) -As more county and city leaders across the state are requiring community members to wear masks, others want to push more education.

Public Safety Director Jacob Saur says zip code 34208 has the highest number of reported COVID-19 cases in the Tampa Bay region.

"We're trying to come up with clear direction from this board," said Betsy Benac.

Manatee County commissioners touched the mask mandate conversation briefly during a meeting Tuesday after rumors surfaced on social media the last few days that they’d be making a decision on the matter. That was simply untrue. County leaders were scheduled to hear an update from Saur on the pandemic.

Commissioners during the meeting did mention that constituents have reached out to them for and against the matter. Commissioner Misty Servia even put a poll up on her social media accounts to gauge how people felt on the topic.

“There is no way that I’m going to look at the citizens of Manatee County and require, mandate that they wear a mask because all they’re going to do is rebel. I’ve said that very word before when we were talking about the curfew. It was a disaster,” said Commissioner Vanessa Baugh.

Servia said she was disappointed that masks have become a political issue. She proposed putting out a public health advisory on best practices for the community.

“The most that we’re going to do is tell them what we have been telling for the last 45-60 days. I know whatever we do it’s going to be tough to enforce I am aware of that,” said Commissioner Reggie Bellamy.

Another commissioner said, 'no enforcement.'

The motion passed for the public safety staff to bring a best practices announcement back to commissioners to put out into the community.

The public safety director says people need to remain vigilant.

He says between Thursday and Saturday Manatee saw the largest increase of positive cases since the start of the pandemic.

They saw 12 more hospitalizations since last week bringing their current total to between 48 and 51 people receiving treatment at area hospitals.

Commissioner Carol Whitmore says the Manatee County Medical Society supports mandatory masks when in public and inside public spaces.

The recommendations for the community will be presented to commissioners for approval before putting it out to the public.

Commissioners also approved to extend the local state of emergency in Manatee County again during the meeting.

The meeting can be watched back on the county Youtube page.

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