A sheriff in Florida has ordered his deputies not to wear face masks, saying they inhibit communication with the public.
Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods announced in an email to staff this week he doesn’t want visitors to the sheriff’s office, or people who work there to wear masks, saying his approach thus far has been working.
“Since the beginning of this pandemic the operation of this office has not changed and no wearing of masks has been put in place,” Woods’ email stated. “With just at 900 employees, our number of cases so far has proven that the current way we are approaching the issue is working.”
“My order will stand as is when you are on-duty/working as my employee and representing my Office – masks will not be worn,” the sheriff stated.
The sheriff’s order stands firm for visitors, according to WCJB.com:
If a visitor does not want to removed their mask, they will be asked to leave. If they do not want to wait in the lobby with other people not wearing mask, staff will take the person’s cell phone number so they can wait outside.
While Sheriff Woods has made exceptions for deputies and workers at “the courthouse, the jail, in public schools, in hospitals and in dealing with people suspected of being infected with COVID-19 or at high risk of complications from the disease,” according to Ocala.com, all others are required to remove masks.
“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,” Woods said.
The sheriff also released verbiage for officers to recite to members of the public if they take issue with the no-mask policy: “I am not required to wear a mask nor will I, per the Order of the Sheriff.”
“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 sheriff argued.
Sheriff Woods pre-empted criticism by saying he thought long and hard about his ban on masks.
“Now, I can already hear the whining and just so you know I did not make this decision easily and I have weighed it out for the past 2 weeks,” he stated. “This is no longer a debate nor is it up for discussion.”
For those arguing that science proves face masks work, Sheriff Woods says, “I can find the exact same amount of professionals that say why we shouldn’t.”
The sheriff’s message comes as Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn has vowed to make mask issues low-priority and impose no fine on violators, after he tried and failed to pass a veto on the Ocala City Council’s recent mask ordinance.
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