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Commissioners seek creative alternatives to mask mandate

Posted at 11:46 PM, Sep 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-08 23:46:11-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Though health experts, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recommend masks for the un-vaccinated in indoor public places, leaders in Leon County say they're not in a position to make that happen yet.

During their special meeting Tuesday, commissioner Nick Maddox questioned county attorney Chasity Osteen about the legality of mandating masks, asking "Have we even met the floor of legal standard that's required of us to take that action?" Given the floor, Osteen said, "Based on what's been presented at this meeting, no I do not think so."

With that established, Commissioner Kristin Dozier has other ideas about ways to mitigate the spread. For example, "requiring masks in our facilities," Dozier said. "We've got public buildings like the libraries that should be able to accommodate anyone in the community, and it's one of the things we could do to really help keep people safe."

She also suggested tying mask mandates to grant funding.

"We have a lot of arts and culture organizations who are grant recipients," she adds. "I think they need some direction from the county commission."

That could include events at museums and theatres, or popular outdoor favorites.

"For example, if you were at a first Friday event and you walked into a gallery," explains Kathleen Spehar, executive director for the Council on Culture & Arts, "you may be required to have a mask on when you're inside a gallery space."

And while commissioners may not be able to mandate masks at this time, local experts are ready to support them when it's legally possible.

"In my knowledge I would. I would advise a mask mandate," said Dr. Mary Simmons, Ph.D, FAMU director of cardiopulmonary science.

Dozier says, for now, she looks forward to hearing other creative ideas from commissioners and the community.