Marion County, Florida, Sheriff Billy Woods told his deputies that they and visitors to the office would be barred from wearing face masks.
Marion County Sheriff’s Office
Marion County, Florida, Sheriff Billy Woods told his deputies Tuesday that said they were prohibited from wearing face masks while on the job, the Ocala Star-Banner reported.
“We can debate and argue all day of why and why not,” he wrote in an email, claiming there was conflicting evidence on whether masks are effective in preventing COVID-19 spread.
In fact, health experts overwhelmingly agree that face masks are critical in preventing the spread of the coronavirus.
Visitors to the Sherriff’s office are likewise prohibited from wearing masks because of “current events when it comes to the sentiment and/or hatred toward law enforcement,” according to the email published by the Star-Banner.
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A Florida Sherriff sent an email to his deputies Tuesday telling them they weren’t allowed to wear face masks when on duty, claiming that there was no scientific consensus on the effectiveness of masks in stopping the spread of the coronavirus.
In the email, according to a report from the Ocala Star-Banner, Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods told deputies his “order will stand as is when you are on-duty/working as my employee and representing my Office – masks will not be worn.”
Woods allowed exceptions that permit mask-wearing, including when deputies visit the courthouse, the jail, public schools, hospitals, or when they are in contact with someone suspected of having the virus, according to the report. He’s also banned visitors from wearing masks.
“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,” he wrote in the email, according to the report.
As the Star-Banner noted, Marion County, which includes the city of Ocala and has a population of 365,579, reported 13 new COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday, setting the county’s all-time record for deaths reported in a single day. The Ocala City Council last week passed an ordinance to require people to wear masks inside businesses, though the city’s Republican mayor vetoed the order, the Star-Banner reported.
“We can debate and argue all day of why and why not,” Woods’ email reads. “The fact is, the amount of professionals that give the reason why we should, I can find the exact same amount of professionals that say why we shouldn’t.”
Health experts overwhelmingly agree that masks, in fact, help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
A spokesperson for the Marion County Sheriff told Insider Wednesday that “the Sheriff will not be commenting on this policy.”
Health experts say masks help prevent COVID-19 from spreading
As Business Insider as previously reported, scientists overwhelmingly agree that widespread mask adoption would help curb the community spread of the novel coronavirus in the US. While US leaders had discouraged the panic-buying of masks at the outset of the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has since April recommended that Americans wear masks to stem COVID-19 transmission.
Masks have been at the forefront of the politicization surrounding the coronavirus in the US. President Trump for months refused to be seen in public sporting a facial covering, though he has since called their usage “patriotic” and has been photographed wearing one.
In his email to staff, Woods told deputies if they are confronted about not wearing a mask, they should say their job does not require they wear one, and that they will not wear one. Then, he said, his deputies should direct the complainant his way.
“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 wrote, according to the Star-Banner.
Throughout the state of Florida, there have been at least 545,040 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, resulting in at least 8,765 deaths according to state data accessed on Wednesday. At least 6,784 of the state’s cases come from Marion county, which as reported 104 deaths, according to state data.
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