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Leaders in Charlotte, Collier counties decide against requiring face masks

Two Southwest Florida counties on Tuesday decided against mandating face masks. Their decisions come after several major cities in Florida started requiring residents to wear masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Charlotte County commissioners decided against a mandate, instead encouraging businesses to set their own rules. Collier County commissioners also decided not to require masks but may tell businesses to implement the rule.

Sally Simon of Port Charlotte lives with some medical challenges and wants to see a countywide mask mandate. She took a cab to voice her concerns at Tuesday’s commission meeting.

“Masks, please make them mandatory,” she said.

“It was important enough for me to invest cash money, $15, to get here.”

But commissioners ultimately decided to forego the requirement, citing common misuse and enforcement challenges.

“Does law enforcement handle that? Does the Division of Professional and Business Regulation handle that? Does code enforcement?” asked Dr. Joseph Pepe, health officer with the Florida Department of Health Charlotte County, who has a Ph.D. in education.

In Collier County, commissioners held a similar discussion on Tuesday.

“I don’t believe we should be asking our residents to wear masks, but how about our employees and certain businesses?” said Commissioner Burt Saunders.

Required or not, Simon said you’ll see her staying six feet from others with her face covered.

“I am protecting me, for me; I am protecting you all from me in case I have something,” she said.

Charlotte County wants to get masks to everyone. Soon, masks will be available for pick-up at the county administration building.

The health department is also finalizing plans to get masks into local retail stores so workers and customers can stay protected.

Reporter:Erika Jackson
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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