Ocala City Council passes controversial face mask ordinance

Published: Aug. 5, 2020 at 5:24 PM EDT
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OCALA, Fla. (WCJB) - The Ocala City Council has approved an ordinance requiring people to wear face masks when they enter a business within the city.

The emergency ordinance was introduced by Councilman Matt Wardell, and supported by all of the council members except Council President Jay Musleh.

The council’s vote came on the same day where Marion County reported 12 new COVID-19 related deaths.

“My stand point is to get this under control so that people can get some what of a normal life. Ultimately that’s the goal, keeping people safe and keeping things rolling without having to shut down,” Wardell said.

The ordinance states that businesses would have to posts signage about the face covering requirement, make announcements over the business’s p-a system, and make “a reasonable effort” to ensure patrons and employees wear a mask.

There are exceptions to the face covering rule, however. Children under the age of seven, persons who have trouble breathing due to chronic pre-existing conditions, those who cannot “tolerate a facial covering for a medical sensory or any other condition which makes it difficult for them to utilize a face covering and function in public,” those exercising while six feet away from another individual, and restaurant and bar patrons that are eating and drinking, are some of the exemptions to the face covering rules.

There are some penalties if businesses don’t follow these rules.

According to the ordinance, a first time offender will receive a verbal warning, which includes “education about the dangers of non-compliance,” a second offense will include a written warning, while a third, and all subsequent offenses, will include a $25 fine.

But if business owners follow all of the rules of the ordinance, even if a customer refuses to wear a mask, they won’t be punished Wardell said.

“And then if someone still insists on coming in and they’re not wearing a mask, have someone just ask them to put on a mask, that’s it, that’s all the business is required to do and if that person still doesn’t wear a mask, the business is still quote off the hookworm the ordinance because they’ve done the requirements of the ordinance,” Wardell said.

But there are still some concerns about the new law. 

Ocala business leaders said this could have the opposite effect.

“When businesses see risk, what they do is they pull back, they do less. ‘Well maybe we should just close. Maybe it would be better if we use close for a while and just lay off some employees and we’ll just wait till this is over. Maybe we reduce hours,’ and it does the exact opposite of what everyone wants to accomplish is to keep business open,” President of the Ocala / Marion Chamber and Economic Partnership, Kevin Sheilley said.

The ordinance will go into effect in 10 days on August 14th unless the Mayor vetoes it. See the council’s full discussion here.

Copyright 2020 WCJB. All rights reserved.

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