It seems like nearly everywhere you go now — be it store, government building, even a park — there’s a sign requiring people to wear some sort of face covering due to the pandemic. Though people have created scenes, the message has remained simple: No mask, no service.
But get this, in typical Florida fashion (Florida Roomies, we love y’all), a sheriff is actually demanding the opposite, warning his staff that they will face consequences. Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods has instructed his employees not to wear masks when they are on duty and visitors to the station will be asked to leave if they refuse to take off their mask!
“This is no longer a debate nor is it up for discussion,” he said in an email to employees, according to CBS News. Apparently Woods noted the mayor of Ocala, which is the largest city in Marion County, vetoed a mask mandate recently passed by the city council.
Even though Woods expects the veto to be overruled, the ordinance exempts government entities, leaving the decision of whether or not to mandate face masks to those in charge and it sounds like Woods has his mind made up.
“So, as for us, my order will stand as is when you are on-duty/working as my employee and representing my Office – masks will not be worn,” Woods wrote in his email, which was sent to CBS News today by the Marion County Sheriff’s Office public information director.
Employees, however, can wear “only pre-approved masks” in certain instances: if HR instructs them to, and if they are at hospitals, the courthouse, the jail, or public or private schools that have mask mandates for students.
Deputies have also been advised to carry face masks while on patrol in case they have to respond to a nursing home or an assisted living facility, according to Woods.
“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’ email reads.
He said deputies should not wear masks at any special event or special detail.
“If at any time you are confronted by any individual complaining, berating you or just being a difficult individual, you will politely and professionally tell them ‘I am not required to wear a mask nor will I, per the Order of the Sheriff’ and then walk away from them,” Woods wrote. “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.”
The email also details guidance for visitors who enter the sheriff’s office: Anyone who enters wearing a mask will be asked to remove it.
“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,” Woods wrote. “All of our lobbies have glass barriers between you and them that the virus cannot magically go thru.”
Anyone who refuses to remove their mask will be asked to leave and if a visitor feels uncomfortable standing in the lobby with others, Woods advises his employees get their cell number and have the visitor wait outside.
Woods said that since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the sheriff’s office has not mandated the wearing of masks. “With just at 900 employees, our number of cases so far has proven that the current way we are approaching the issue is working,” he wrote.
“This is no longer a debate nor is it up for discussion. Please keep in mind this entire pandemic is fluid and constantly changing the way things are done,” he wrote. “However, my orders will be followed or my actions will be swift to address.”
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