Palm Beach County Makes Facial Coverings Mandatory

Palm Beach County’s Board of Commissioners met June 23 and unanimously approved a mandatory facial covering policy after facing a slew of angered residents speaking against the mandate.

Masks are now required in all
indoor public spaces.

This policy comes in response to the newest surges of COVID-19 across the county and the state of Florida.

“Masks protect a person who could have the COVID virus from spreading it,” Palm Beach County’s Department of Health Director Dr. Alina Alonso said. “In other words, if I am positive and I have this mask on then my virus cannot go to you.”

Dr. Alonso added, “Our numbers are going in the wrong direction” citing the rate of infection’s rise to the “less cautious” who are now beginning to go outside and attend populated functions.

“Everything we are going to do today is with the idea of keeping people healthy and keeping people so they can put food on the table and so that we can be a community again when this thing is over,” Vice Mayor Robert Weinroth commented. “I hate the idea of talking about mandatory face coverings and it goes against my grain and I think that it’s a mistake.”

Weinroth suggested substitution of the original motion putting certain limits on the mandate. This includes a 30-day sunset on the policy, violators being given a civil citation, and coverings not enforced outside in public areas such as beaches and playgrounds.

In response to this Commissioner Gregg Weiss mentioned Monroe County’s mask enforcement policy lasting one year and said, “A more reasonable approach would be to set this for four months.”

The other commissioners, including Hal Valeche and Weinroth, supported only a 30-day mandate citing their ability to prolong the mask enforcement policy if there is a continued rise in positive cases.

“We have to do everything we can to slow the spread and we’re doing that here today with the mandatory masks,” Commissioner Mark Bernard said. “We are not able to go into Phase Two because our numbers are increasing.”

Noncompliance with the new mask mandate will result in civil citations up to $500, Weinroth compares the penalties to that of a speeding ticket.

The vote was public and a hearing was held beforehand to allow citizens the opportunity to voice their opinion on mandatory mask enforcement.

“You’re not listening to ‘We The People’, you made your decision,” one citizen, Butch Diaz argued. “You do not care about ‘We The People.’ It’s pathetic. It breaks my heart because I would die for the flag, I would die for the country and I would die for the Constitution. And you guys are supposed to uphold the Constitution. But you know what? You didn’t. You let ‘We The People’ down.”

One citizen pleading against
the enforcement of masks

A majority of those who spoke vehemently voiced a connection between this decision, Nazi Germany and Fidel Castro’s dictatorship in Cuba. Many also commented on a religious note reasoning that God did not intend for the wearing of masks. The crowd continued to voice their concerns due to some of their inability to wear masks due to an underlying health condition.

Commissioner Melissa McKinlay noted a majority of the emails received by her office were in favor of a mask mandate. McKinlay proposed that county law enforcement officials be given masks to distribute in cases where constituents not complying be given a facial covering.

“I think we have to be careful about exempting medical conditions so that language should be an important part of this because the last thing we want to do is people that genuinely can’t wear masks to get them into a situation where they could be cited,” Valeche commented.

The vote was cast, including provisions made by Weinroth, and the mandate passed 7-0. This decision was met with an uproar from the crowd with many in attendance marching out once the outcome was announced.

Weiss noted that this mask enforcement policy was made in an effort to combat the high positivity rate.

“Our goal is not to arrest citizens. It’s not to necessarily fine citizens. It’s to encourage citizens and help us protect all of us to keep our county moving forward, to keep our businesses open, to keep our recreational activities going forward,” County Administrator Verdenia Baker commented. “It’s a matter of educating, putting the information out and knowing we’re protecting each other.”

About the Author

- I am majoring in Multimedia Studies with a Concentration in Journalism as a Junior at Florida Atlantic University. I love to write about current events in our community.

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