FL Sheriff Bans Deputies, Office Visitors from Wearing Masks

Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods in 2018

Any deputies confronted by community members about not covering their faces should "politely and professionally tell them I am not required to wear a mask nor will I, per the Order of the Sheriff", and walk away, Woods wrote.

"Effective immediately, any individual walking in to 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", Woods wrote in his email, obtained by the outlet.

We can debate and argue all day of why and why not.

"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", he wrote.

There are exceptions to the rule, like having to wear masks at the county courthouse, the jail, at public and private schools that require masks, hospitals, and when deputies are responding to a nursing home, an address where there is a known COVID-19 alert, or on a call that involves a high risk elderly person.

A number of law enforcement agencies across the country have balked at requiring masks, citing concerns they may interfere with officers in the line of duty, but Woods is one of the very few sheriffs that has actually banned his deputies from wearing them, according to the Washington Post.

"If at any time you are confronted by any individual complaining, berating you or just being a hard 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. The council is considering a possible override of the veto.

Woods' email made it clear he was digging in his heels, writing that mask wearing was "no longer a debate nor is it up for discussion".

Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods, the top cop in the north central Florida county, issued his prohibition in response to a local ordinance mandating masks that was passed by the Ocala City Council last week. "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.

Also Wednesday, there were more than 8,100 new infections reported in Florida, for a total of 550,000 known cases in the state since the start of the pandemic.

The state on Tuesday recorded a daily death toll of 276 - the same day Mr Woods sent the order directing officers to remove their masks. "We're just not going to do it", Guinn told the Sky 97.3 FM on Monday.

Florida is now seeing a positivity rate of 17 percent; according to the World Health Organization, a community should maintain a positivity rate of 5 percent or lower for more than two weeks before it considers easing social distancing measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

"Please keep in mind this entire pandemic is fluid and constantly changing the way things are done".

The Marion County Jail has seen at least 36 of its employees and seven more who work outside the jail - patrol officers included - contract COVID-19, as well as 200 inmates.

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