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Leon County weighs mask mandate amid Phase Three reopening

Posted at 6:27 PM, Sep 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-28 23:14:58-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Leon County says it is limited in terms of enforcing a mask mandate after the governor lifted restrictions Friday but, looking to Tuesday's meeting, they will most likely keep it in place.

Leon implemented a countywide mask mandate on June 25, requiring face coverings in business establishments.

The mandate enforced by local law enforcement came with civil penalties if people did not comply.

Those penalties ranged from $50 to $200 based on the number of violations.

There is a growing concern on how to keep numbers down since college students are back and won't have a penalty for going maskless.

Chairman of the Commission Bryan Desloge says lifting the restrictions doesn't remove the mandate.

"That strips the penalties away, what it doesn't do is strip the mandate away though," said Desloge. "So, probably tomorrow night, we'll discuss where we go with this. My gut is that we end up keeping the mask mandate but there will be no penalty."

Desloge says he has spoken with universities about how they can encourage mask-wearing on campus since the state surgeon general suggests they help when people gather.

"Even if it isn't regulated I think it's important to wear it when you're in contained spaces that aren't public parks," said Arlie Haire, a Tallahassee resident.

After months of a mask mandate in Leon County businesses could change their requirements in less than 24 hours.

"We can't force people to do this," Desloge said.

Now with bars and restaurants opening to full capacity, some people say masks aren't necessary.

"I think that a lot of people are already feeling comfortable not wearing the masks," said Jamie Rudden, who lives in Tallahassee. "I don't think the masks are needed anymore."

If the county does lift the ban businesses will be able to decide if face coverings are mandatory.

"Businesses if they deem it's appropriate, can basically decide not to serve somebody if they don't wear a mask," Desloge said. "So I know there are some in the community who will say my employees are wearing a mask and I'm not serving unless you wear a mask."

The county is keeping a watchful eye on bars that have chosen to move to full capacity but say they will see what happens in the next few weeks as people in the community work to protect themselves.

"It's just for the health of everyone, I think it's important for public health," said Haire.

Desloge says the county hasn't given out any civil fines related to the mandate and they are working with universities to encourage students to wear face coverings on and off-campus.