After a fierce debate, Palm Beach County commissioners unanimously approved an executive order requiring face masks in public in Palm Beach County.
Mayor Kerner said the new order will likely go into effect on Wednesday, and will be in place indefinitely. The penalty for violating the mandate would be a civil citation, possibly a fine, and will be enforced in public places. Children and those with a medical exemption are not required to adhere to the new mandate.
The debate on Tuesday turned heated, just seconds after it started.
As commissioners stood to give the Pledge of Allegiance, some members of the audience screamed it.
One woman in the crowd interrupted Mayor Kerner, prompting a warning to the chamber for all to follow the procedures.
The new mandate comes as the number of coronavirus cases in Florida pushed pat the 100,000 mark on Monday.
Commissioner Melissa McKinlay says she plans to vote in favor of the mask requirement saying, “We had hoped the public could self-police and heed the Mayor’s recommendations issued weeks ago but that isn’t happening. As a result, our numbers are increasing at a concerning rate.”
She says in order to move forward they must take a proactive measure to flatten the curve again.
“Everyone wants to return to normal. Well, our normal has changed for the foreseeable future. And masks need to be a part of that new normal.”
Right now, Palm Beach County only requires masks to be worn in government buildings and on buses. If passed, the order would likely mimic the mask mandates already passed in Broward and Miami-Dade. That’s where masks must be worn in all indoor public spaces as well as by all people working in the food industry.
“Our businesses are asking for it as a measure to build consumer confidence. Our residents are asking for it to give them a better level of comfort when going out in public,” Commissioner McKinlay added.
Dr. Leslie Diaz is an infectious disease specialist. She says she also supports making masks mandatory as she continues to see a recent spike in the number of patients being admitted for COVID-19.
She has a message for people who she refers to as coronavirus “non-believers.”
“The reality is in my face and I live it every day. It is not a fallacy. The numbers are real. They are not duplicated and the reason why the numbers are rising is because of people like them, that are non-believers, going about their business, doing everything normal and not taking moral responsibility,” she said. “For those individuals, I tell them walk in my shoes for one day and then come back and talk to me.”
Dr. Diaz says she believes the reason for the spike in cases and hospitalizations is related to Florida reopening too soon.