County Commissioners enact local face covering resolution requiring masks to be worn inside businesses in Manatee County
MANATEE COUNTY, FL (July 27, 2020) – Manatee County Commissioners today voted to enact a local face covering resolution that goes into effect immediately. Those entering a business in Manatee County will be required to wear a face mask.
The resolution requires an individual in a business establishment to wear a face covering while inside the business, unless social distancing can be achieved (6 feet or more apart). The mask mandate will not apply to children under age six or to those "who have trouble breathing due to a chronic pre-existing condition or individuals with a documented or demonstrable medical problem."
The meeting began with an update on local COVID-19 conditions from County leaders, and an extended update from Dr. Jennifer Bencie, director of the Department of Health in Manatee County. Bencie said the local medical community estimates as much as 48 percent of Manatee County residents may be asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic phase and spreading the coronavirus.
"That's why masks are vital," Bencie said. "The evidence is clear that masks help to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and the more people that wear masks, the better. There are three W’s to ward off COVID-19: Wearing a mask, washing your hands and watching your distance. Of the three the most important is wearing a mask.”
Bencie cited a study that found mask mandates led to a slow down in daily COVID-19 growth rates which became more apparent over time.
The County Attorney's Office modeled the Manatee County resolution from Leon County's face covering order which has withstood legal challenges. Today's draft resolution can be viewed on the Board's agenda section of the County website. The Board voted 4-3 to approve the resolution but added a requirement that a warning be issued before any citation penalties. The updated version will be posted to the County's website when it is available.
Commissioners opted not to adopt a face mask ordinance, instead deciding to review the resolution publicly on a regular basis in the coming weeks. The County's face covering resolution will not take the place of any existing face mask ordinance or resolution in any of its municipalities.
The vote was 4-3 to approve the resolution... here is how the vote breaks down....
Commissioners Betsy Benac, Misty Servia, Reggie Bellamy and Carol Whitmore voted in favor of the resolution.
Commissioners Vanessa Baugh, Stephen Jonsson and Priscilla Whisenant Trace voted against the resolution.