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Consensus on masks for protection against COVID-19 remains up in the air

Despite the rising number of coronavirus cases across Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis remains firm masks in the sunshine state are optional. This comes as more evidence suggests wearing masks could help slow the spread. And local businesses are stuck in the middle of these changing and conflicting reports.

Monday, we heard from a former FDA leader, who says mask implementation, whether enforced or not, will be one of the best ways to ensure the country does not shut down the way it did originally.

And we spoke to a small business in Southwest Florida about how it continues to roll with the guidelines and do everything possible to keep its doors open and customers and staff safe.

Bess “LadyCakes” Charles is the co-owner of LadyCakes Bakery in Cape Coral. She says the unknowns surrounding COVID-19 and how it will affect her business continue to be on the forefront of daily life.

“There is no day-to-day monotony, Charles said. “I like to kind of keep things new and interesting and every day, and the bakery is just that.”

Charles says one of her favorite things about baking is the opportunity for things to change. But since the pandemic began, her business has needed to do a lot of that.

“We’ve lost a lot of business because, obviously, your business is structured around events. You can’t have big birthday parties and big weddings right now,” Charles said. “We’re trying to implement and change, be a chameleon. So to say, in order to still make the profits to keep our business going.”

Charles is focused on keeping the bakery open, her staff safe and her customers comfortable. She and rest of the staff at LadyCakes wear masks at the bakery.

“We’re not asking for people to wear a mask when they come in,” Charles said. “But, when they walk through the door and they see us wearing masks, I feel like that will make customers more comfortable, knowing that we’re taking precautions for them.”

But the debate around masks remains divided. DeSantis continues to publicly say it’s your choice. And the current CDC guidance has it going both ways, recommending that you wear a mask when you leave the house, then recommending people wear a mask if they cannot properly social distance.

Still, others such as Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former FDA commissioner, says masks are one of the best ways to keep society from shutting down again.

“We’re not going to want to shut down businesses again,” Gottlieb said. “We’re not going to want to shut down the economy. So there’s not many tools we can reach for. We can go toward universal masking, something that’s been controversial in some of these states. But there’s not much, much else you can do.”

The CDC is expected to update its policy on masks soon. Its scientists have been looking into whether masks can actually protect people from contracting COVID-19 and not just prevent them from spreading it.

For Charles, the back and forth can be a lot. But she says it’s worth it.

“It’s difficult to come up with all the changes that are happening,” Charles said. “The bottom line here is I want to make sure that my employees are safe, that my husband and I are safe, that my clients are safe. And, if there’s a rule that we need to follow, we’ll hear about it, and we’ll follow it.”

World Health Organization (WHO): When and how to use a mask

Reporter:Veronica Marshall
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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