Deputies from Marion County in Florida are now barred from wearing facial coverings at work, after their sheriff ordered to do so, authorities revealed on Wednesday.
Sheriff Billy Woods has released the order while the state still grapples with its high COVID-19 cases. Contradicting the explicit guidelines set by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which states that masks can help curb the spread of the virus, the sheriff said that there is no conclusive evidence to prove the claims.
According to Yahoo! News, more than 900 department employees in the county are directed to follow the order. Woods also said that his decision is not up for debate or discussion.
With a population of around 365,000, Marion County lies in the heart of Horse County Florida. The county seat is located in Ocala just 40 miles from Gainesville.
Ocala also has its own police force that employs around 300 people, about one-third of which are sworn law enforcement officers. It has the second biggest police force in the county. Ocala has not imposed any policy which prohibits or mandates the usage of masks, however, it stated that officers and civilians are encouraged to wear face coverings according to a spokesperson from the police department.
Meanwhile, some situations are also exempted from Wood's order. Places or settings where masks are necessary such as hospitals, nursing homes, jails, schools, or an alert about COVID-19 from dispatch are on the list of exemptions.
According to NBC News, Woods said that he already anticipated pushback from the community. But he advised the county's employees to just walk away from those who will criticize his directive.
Moreover, Woods told his deputies that if someone calls them out they should immediately respond that the sheriff ordered that masks are not required. He said that after that, the burden of accountability to the person should then be transferred to him.
On top of this, the policy will also be imposed in full force inside buildings run by the sheriff. It was also noted that civilians who will enter the said buildings will also be barred from wearing masks.
Based on the policy, civilians who will refuse to remove their masks will be asked to leave the premises and their contact numbers. They will then be called and invited to the building once an employee is already free to meet them.
According to Woods, the directive is being done in order to ensure clear identification and communication of everyone entering the lobby, He also referenced that the hatred towards law enforcement that is currently going on in the country is what pushed him to impose the policy. However, he emphasized that all the lobbies in the departments are equipped with glass barriers, thus, the virus cannot easily go thru.
Meanwhile, according to a spokesperson from the Florida Department of Health in Marion County, Woods did not consult the local health department before he issued the directive. But the spokesperson noted that the department of health, fully recommends everyone to adhere to the advisory of the CDC and WHO to use face masks or coverings especially in places where social distancing is not practiced.
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