A Republican sheriff in Florida is forbidding workers and visitors from wearing masks as the coronavrius pandemic grips the United States.
“When the sheriff in Marion County, Fla, wrote an email to his deputies this week about a new mask order, he expected there would be complaints. ‘I can already hear the whining,’ Sheriff Billy Woods wrote, noting that he did not make the decision “easily.”
And at a time when more states and cities are requiring face coverings, Sheriff Woods’s decision was unusual — he forbade his deputies from wearing masks while on duty, with some exceptions, and barred visitors to his offices from wearing them.
Sheriff Woods said the purpose of his order, which was first reported by The Ocala Star-Banner, was less about the efficacy of masks in stopping the spread of the coronavirus than about improving communication with the public.
He wrote that ‘in light of the current events when it comes to the sentiment and/or hatred toward law enforcement,’ an apparent reference to nationwide protests over police brutality this summer, that it would be better if officers’ voices were not muffled behind masks and that citizens’ faces were not obscured.
Public health officials across the world now agree that wearing a face covering in public is crucial to slowing the spread of the virus. In the United States, many localities that initially resisted imposing mask mandates changed course after virus cases started to soar over the summer, and now require them.
But Sheriff Woods, a Republican who was elected in 2016 and participated in a phone call between law enforcement and President Trump on Tuesday, was not swayed by the scientific consensus.
‘We can debate and argue all day of why and why not,’ he wrote. ‘The fact is, the amount of professionals that give the reason why we should, I can find the exact same amount of professionals that say why we shouldn’t.'”
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