Manatee County Commission repeals face covering mandate, urges County residents to continue following CDC guidelines

Manatee County Commission repeals face covering mandate, urges County residents to continue following CDC guidelines
Posted on 09/28/2020

MANATEE COUNTY, FL (Sept. 29, 2020) – County Commissioners today repealed a mandatory face covering resolution, replacing it with a position by a unanimous proclamation that anyone in Manatee County should continue to wear masks if they're unable to socially distance indoors. 

The 4-3 vote comes days after Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an Executive Order that revoked the ability of local governments to enforce fines and penalties related to face mask requirements. Local COVID-19 infection rates have dropped significantly and stabilized over the past two months.

"The majority of people wear a mask not because of a mandate but because they know it's the right thing to do," said Commissioner Vanessa Baugh who voted for the repeal. "It's up to each business to enforce whether people should wear a mask or not."

After repealing the face mask resolution, Commissioners voted unanimously in favor of a proclamation and an official position on face masks that states the Board, "strongly encourages individuals who cannot social distance to wear face coverings and supports businesses displaying signs requiring face masks to be worn in business establishments to reduce the spread of COVID-19."

"Everyone is saying you need to continue wearing a mask to slow the transmission," added Commission Chairwoman Betsy Benac. "Businesses can continue to keep signs in their businesses requiring visitors to wear masks. They're perfectly within their rights to do that."

Joining Commissioner Baugh in the repeal were Commissioners Benac, Trace and Jonsson. Voting against the repeal were Commissioners Whitmore, Servia and Bellamy. Citizens and business owners in attendance and calling into the meeting both supported and opposed the repeal of the face covering resolution. The approved proclamation encourages businesses and individuals to protect each other when they're unable to social distance six feet apart.

Effective immediately, face masks will no longer be required to be worn indoors in Manatee County when people cannot socially distance from each other. The repeal of the face mask requirement does not apply to Manatee County public schools where face masks are required in schools by the School Board. Face masks will still be required inside the County's MCAT buses and public facilities including Manatee County public libraries.

As of Monday nearly 107,000 people in Manatee County have been tested for the coronavirus or about 26 percent of the County's 411,000 residents. Over the past seven days, an average of 3.46 percent of patients are testing positive on a daily basis.