Florida Sheriff Bans Deputies From Wearing Masks, Order Not ‘Up For Discussion’

A Florida sheriff has ordered his deputies and visitors to his office to not wear face masks – with few exceptions.

Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods sent an email to his employees on Tuesday giving the mandate, saying that the science around mask use is mixed, despite orders from public officials suggesting otherwise.

“My order will stand as is when you are on-duty/working as my employee and representing my Office – masks will not be worn,” Woods said in the email, according to the Ocala Star Banner. Woods’ order carved out certain exceptions such as when a deputy is around someone deemed vulnerable to the virus and when they are in the county jail.

“For all of these exceptions, the moment that enforcement action is to be taken and it requires you to give an individual orders/commands to comply, the mask will be immediately removed,” Woods said. “As for special details and/or any special events (paid or not), masks will not be worn. Effective immediately the entity that has requested and has hired a deputy for a special detail will be given clear instruction by Darian Tucker at the time of their written request that masks will not be worn (unless one of the exceptions above applies). In addition, if you are the special detail deputy you will again advise the contact person that a mask will not be worn by you.”

Woods’ order to his deputies came a day before the Ocala City Council overrode a mayoral veto to institute a mask mandate on the city, directing residents to wear masks when inside any business.

If any deputies are questioned for not wearing masks while on the job, the sheriff directed his employees to “politely and professionally tell them I am not required to wear a mask nor will I, per the Order of the Sheriff.”

“From that point on it will be my burden and responsibility to take care of the person and answer their problem, complaint or their question,” Woods said.

“Effective immediately, any individual walking in to any one of our lobbies (which includes the main office and all district offices) that is wearing a mask will be asked to remove it,” Woods said. “In light of the current events when it comes to the sentiment and/or hatred toward law enforcement in our country today, this is being done to ensure there is clear communication and for identification purposes of any individual walking into a lobby.”

“If a person does not wish to remove the mask they will be asked to leave. If the individual is not comfortable with standing and waiting in the lobby with other individuals, politely ask for their cell number and advise them to stand outside or sit in their vehicle and you will text or call them with their completed transaction,” Woods added.

Woods said he decided to issue the order to end the debate over whether mask use may or may not limit the spread of the coronavirus.

“We can debate and argue all day of why and why not. The fact is, the amount of professionals that give the reason why we should, I can find the exact same amount of professionals that say why we shouldn’t. Since the beginning of this pandemic the operation of this office has not changed and no wearing of masks has been put in place,” Woods said. “This is no longer a debate nor is it up for discussion. Please keep in mind this entire pandemic is fluid and constantly changing the way things are done. However, my orders will be followed or my actions will be swift to address.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not issued a firm ruling one way or the other, but it does recommend that people wear masks in “public settings” because “a mask may not protect the wearer, but it may keep the wearer from spreading the virus to others.”

Related: Wearing A ‘Neck Gaiter’ May Be Worse Than No Mask At All, Study Finds

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