On August 12, Sheriff Billy Woods of Marion County expressed his orders in a memo shared among his employees explaining that neither his deputies nor visitors to the sheriff’s office would be allowed to wear face masks.
The memo was sent via email, one day after Florida recorded its highest single-day number of coronavirus-related deaths, with 276 deaths reported by local health officials, and a total of 542,792 cases reported throughout the state.
“Effective immediately, any individual walking into 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,” the sheriff said in the memo, cited by Fox News.
Sheriff Woods claimed that the decision was made in accordance to ‘the current events when it comes to the sentiment and/or hatred toward law enforcement in our country today’, adding that the banning face masks would allow for ‘clear communication’ and ‘identification purposes of any individual walking into a lobby.’
However, there were some exceptions to Woods’ rule, with the email explaining deputies could wear masks ‘while working at the courthouse, the jail, in public schools, in hospitals and in dealing with people suspected of being infected with COVID-19 or at high risk of complications from the disease.’
But Woods pointed out the mask ban was ‘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 sheriff said.
Woods said that he anticipated some confusion from his memo, telling the employees that, if they’re asked why they’re not wearing a mask by a member of the public, ‘you will politely and professionally tell them “I am not required to wear a mask nor will I, per the Order of the Sheriff” and then walk away from them.’
The sheriff wrote that he could ‘already hear the whining’ from those who disagree with his mask ban, but said he made the decision final after considering it for two weeks. He also claimed to have found as many professionals disregarding masks as the number of professionals encouraging them.