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Slowly but surely, the nation is tiring of COVID-19 restrictions and mandates as more evidence becomes available that the disease is nowhere nearly as lethal or dangerous as initially portrayed.
‘Coronavirus fatigue,’ as it can be called, is likely, in part, to have lead Marion County Florida Sheriff Billy Woods to ban his deputies from wearing a mask in a number of situations. That, and he wants to be certain that his deputies are clearly understood during the course of their duties.
According to a memo obtained by the Star-Banner newspaper in Ocala, department employees were advised of the new mandate on Tuesday.
“My order will stand as is when you are on-duty/working as my employee and representing my office — masks will not be worn,” says the Aug. 11 memo.
Woods’ memo comes on the heels of an emergency ordinance passed last week by the Ocala City Council which requires people to wear masks inside businesses.
However, Mayor Kent Guinn vetoed the measure on Monday. The council meets Wednesday to consider whether to override his veto.
In light of that, Marion County set a single-day record Tuesday for the most COVID-19-related deaths — 13 — though as has been reported, the death count, via Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, includes people who die from other causes but may have either tested positive for the virus or were only suspected of having it.
The vast majority of Americans who contract the virus either display no symptoms or mild symptoms. Also, older Americans and those with preexisting conditions are more vulnerable.
There is no statewide mask mandate in Florida. Ocala and other Marion County cities and communities have also advised their officers not to don masks on duty so their instructions can be clearly enunciated.
In his memo, Woods laid out some exceptions for his deputies, such as wearing masks while they’re working at the courthouse, the jail, in public schools, and in hospitals when dealing with suspects and patients believed to have the virus or are at risk from it.
“For all of these exceptions, the moment that enforcement action is to be taken and it requires you to give an individual orders/commands to comply, the mask will be immediately removed,” the memo says, according to the local paper.
The sheriff also said masks should not be worn at special events unless they fall under the exceptions he outlined.
“As for special details and/or any special events (paid or not), masks will not be worn. Effective immediately the entity that has requested and has hired a deputy for a special detail will be given clear instruction by Darian Tucker at the time of their written request that masks will not be worn (unless one of the exceptions above applies). In addition, if you are the special detail deputy you will again advise the contact person that a mask will not be worn by you,” the emailed memo states.
Woods added that if anyone confronts a deputy or department employee about them not wearing a mask, “politely and professionally tell them I am not required to wear a mask nor will I, per the Order of the Sheriff,” then walk away.
“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,” he added.
He also banned people visiting sheriff’s facilities from masking up as well.
“Effective immediately, any individual walking into any one of our lobbies (which includes the main office and all district offices) that is wearing a mask will be asked to remove it,” he wrote.
“In light of the current events when it comes to the sentiment and/or hatred toward law enforcement in our country today, this is being done to ensure there is clear communication and for identification purposes of any individual walking into a lobby,” the memo continues.
“If a person does not wish to remove the mask they will be asked to leave. If the individual is not comfortable with standing and waiting in the lobby with other individuals, politely ask for their cell number and advise them to stand outside or sit in their vehicle and you will text or call them with their completed transaction.”
The sheriff also noted that the ‘science’ behind the effectiveness of mask-wearing is far from settled.
“The fact is, the amount of professionals that give the reason why we should [wear a mask], I can find the exact same amount of professionals that say why we shouldn’t,” he wrote. “Since the beginning of this pandemic the operation of this office has not changed and no wearing of masks has been put in place.”
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