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Judge Upholds Leon County's Mandatory Mask Policy

An N95 face mask outside NYU Langone Health hospital during the coronavirus pandemic.
Noam Galai
Getty Images
An N95 face mask outside NYU Langone Health hospital during the coronavirus pandemic.

A Leon County judge says the county’s mandatory mask policy can stand. It imposes civil penalties on people who don’t wear face coverings in enclosed spaces like businesses. County GOP Chairman Evan Power filed the lawsuit saying the ordinance is too vague. Power is represented by state Republican Representative Anthony Sabatini who claimed the ordinance amounts to government overreach.

“There’s twice as many people dying last year of hernias than this year of COVID. Why there hasn’t been an enormous emergency call to this hernia crisis… I’m not sure why that’s not happened yet,” Sabatini said in his closing remarks.

“Well, the good news Mr. Sabatini, at least as far as I last checked, is that hernias aren’t contagious,” said Circuit Judge John Cooper.

In his ruling, delivered verbally, Cooper noted the increase in infections, hospitalizations, and deaths from the coronavirus. He said had the Leon County Commission not passed the ordinance, it could have been charged with being irresponsible.

“It’s clearly a proper abuse of government’s police power to protect the public,” said Cooper, noting the county’s decision is supported by science, given numerous scientists and the Centers for Disease Control pointing to mask use as a transmission mitigation strategy.

Cooper, along with attorneys for the county, also pointed to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Jacobson vs. Massachusetts in 1905 which upheld the government’s power to impose vaccination mandates.

“Your freedom stops when you’re making decisions that harm others,” said Drew Parker, an attorney who represented the county.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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