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No Statewide Face Mask Requirement In Florida Prompts Local Government Action And Lawsuits

Four face masks are laid out on a wooden surface.
Kujavic Marko/narstudio
Adobe Stock
Pinellas, Pasco, Palm Beach, and Leon among the counties in Florida that have passed face mask ordinances.

As coronavirus cases continue rising in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis is dismissing calls for a statewide order requiring people to wear face masks. That's led several counties to pass face mask ordinances to prevent the virus from spreading. However, those moves are not without push-back.

The state has been setting daily records for the sheer number of new coronavirus cases. This week more than 25,000 cases were reported to the Florida Department of Health. It's causing Florida Democratic lawmakers to call for a statewide order requiring people to wear face masks. Tampa Democratic Sen. Janet Cruz:

"I can't even believe that we have this conversation in this state," Republican Sen. Janet Cruz says.

But Gov. DeSantis says ordering people statewide to wear masks might backfire:

"When you attach criminal penalties for something. You got to enforce it. And the question is in some of the parts of Florida is that really a good use of resources, so I've encouraged the locals to fashion those policies that fit their communities."

Leon County residents will have to wear masks or face coverings while inside businesses and public buildings under a new rule passed by the County Commission Tuesday.

And that's what they've been doing. Counties across the state are passing ordinances requiring people to wear face masks. That includes Pinellas, Pasco, Palm Beach, and Leon County. But those ordinances cause some people like Leon County GOP Chairman Evan Power to file an emergency injunction against them.

"We're exposing people who have medical issues who won't wear a mask subject to ridicule for people who try to pressure them and then they'll have to explain why they're not wearing a mask to law enforcement," Power says.

Power explains while there's a lot of exemptions, he's concerned the ordinance won't be enforced evenly throughout the county.

"I think that it creates an environment that's not about the safety and health of our residents but rather them trying to drive revenue through punitive measures," Power says.

Republican Rep. Anthony Sabatini is also filing a lawsuit against Orange County for its mask ordinance. So far, neither Sabatini nor Power's legal proceedings have effected county ordinances.

Robbie Gaffney graduated from Florida State University with degrees in Digital Media Production and Creative Writing. Before working at WFSU, they recorded FSU’s basketball and baseball games for Seminole Productions as well as interned for the PBS Station in Largo, Florida. Robbie loves playing video games such as Shadow of the Colossus, Animal Crossing, and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. Their other hobbies include sleeping and watching anime.