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Marion County Sheriff bans deputies and visitors from wearing face masks

"My orders will be followed or my actions will be swift to address." said Sheriff Billy Woods
Marion County Sheriff Bill Woods
Marion County Sheriff Bill Woods(Marion County Sheriff's Office)
Published: Aug. 12, 2020 at 11:06 AM EDT
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OCALA, Fla. (WCJB) - Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods says no to face masks.

According to an email to his staff, Woods says deputies and visitors to the office will not be allowed to wear face masks.

“Since the beginning of this pandemic the operation of this office has not changed and no wearing of masks has been put in place,” wrote Woods. “With just at 900 employees, our number of cases so far has proven that the current way we are approaching the issue is working.”

There are exceptions to the rule, like having to wear masks at the county courthouse, the jail, at public and private schools that require masks, hospitals, and when deputies are responding to a nursing home, an address where there is a known COVID-19 alert, or on a call that involves a high risk elderly person. Once the action that required the mask is completed, the mask are to be removed immediately.

Sheriff Woods says if any of his staff are confronted by someone that takes issue with them not wearing a mask, they are to respond, “I am not required to wear a mask nor will I, per the Order of the Sheriff” before walking away.

Visitors to the Sheriff’s Office or one of their district offices are also required to remove their masks.

“In light of the current events when it comes to the sentiment and/or hatred toward law enforcement in our country today, this is being done to ensure there is clear communication and for identification purposes of any individual walking into a lobby,” says Woods.

If a visitor does not want to removed their mask, they will be asked to leave. If they do not want to wait in the lobby with other people not wearing mask, staff will take the person’s cell phone number so they can wait outside.

“Now, I can already hear the whining and just so you know I did not make this decision easily and I have weighed it out for the past 2 weeks.” says Sheriff Woods. “This is no longer a debate nor is it up for discussion.”

Sheriff Woods says, while there are a number of medical professionals advising for use of face masks, “I can find the exact same amount of professional that say why we shouldn’t.”

The Center for Disease Control recommends the use of masks in public settings, “masks are recommended as a simple barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and onto other people when the person wearing the mask coughs, sneezes, talks, or raises their voice.” Which Sheriff Woods notes as another exception, saying that if human resources, when following CDC guidelines, tells a Deputy to wear a mask in a certain situation, they need to.

The City of Ocala had previous enacted a face masking ordinance for people entering businesses and other enclosed public spaces in city limits. The order was vetoed by Ocala City Mayor Kent Guinn on Aug. 10.. The City of Ocala City Council could renew the order with a super-majority vote at their next meeting, a possibility Sheriff Woods considers to be likely.

Copyright 2020 WCJB. All rights reserved.

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