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Leon County mask mandate gives wiggle room for those with disabilities, medical conditions

Posted at 5:55 PM, Jun 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-24 17:55:32-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — In an effort to protect the community, Leon County will require everyone to wear a mask when inside public buildings beginning Thursday at 12:01 a.m.

However, for some in our community that isn't easy to do.

The mandate does allow for a few exemptions, a sigh of relief for one Tallahassee mom whose son is autistic.

"He doesn't want to wear a mask and it does sometimes cause issues with some of his autism," said Justine Spells.

For Spells, the idea of taking her son out without a mask raised concerns.

"I spoke to some friends who reached out to the commissioners to help talk about the issue of special needs children, which is incredibly important," Spells said.

Those concerns were addressed during Leon County commissioners' special meeting on Tuesday.

Ultimately, they decided to exclude children under the age of six, people with a documentation proving a medical, sensory, or any other condition to make wearing a mask difficult, and while exercising.

"I think they did as best they could with the guidelines they have," said Spells. "This is new for everybody."

Laurie Wagner makes see-through masks.

"I was toying around with different styles and I came up with windowed masks because there's a lot of people who read lips or would like to see expressions on people's faces," Wagner said.

Wagner found hers was a type of mask many people wanted.

"Nobody has them, that they've been able to find, like mine," said Wagner. "I've seen people have the clear screen but it's not the same as a mask."

With the new mandate soon to take effect, Wagner anticipates more orders.

Anyone caught with a face mask or covering is looking at a $50 fine on the first offense, $125 on the second offense, and anything after that costs $250 plus a mandatory court appearance.

While it may sound harsh to some, people like Spells feel it's a step in the right direction.

"I think it is necessary in this point in time," Spells said. "We've had a huge spike in cases. I believe even if it helps a little, kindness matters."

The mandate will be in effect for at least one week. Commissioners will review the mandate at their next meeting.

Law Enforcement is still considering how they will specifically enforce the mandate, but hope for voluntary compliance from the community.