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Views on mask use, mandate vary among community members

The debate in Southwest Florida grows as many municipalities in the region discuss mandating masks to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. City of Sanibel became the first municipality in the region to mandate masks be worn in public. Meanwhile, there’s no mask mandate anywhere else in Southwest Florida.

Tuesday, we asked community members in Charlotte County if they would risk a fine and not wear a mask if it was mandated. People we spoke to were split on mask use and the possible enforcement of mask publicly.

“This COVID-19, no one needs it,” said Luann Hitsmann of Port Charlotte. “I got a low immune system, and I don’t want to be sick.”

No one needs the coronavirus or wants it. Some stress people need to wear masks.

“I think to stop the spread of COVID-19, we need to be assertive, aggressive, take care of our health,” said Carol Butera of Port Charlotte.

But others argue they don’t want to wear masks.

“Everybody has their own choices of life of how they want to live,” said Herley Davis of Port Charlotte. “That’s the way I look at it.”

Outside of Charlotte County’s administration building, we found people on both sides of the great mask debate.

“We’ve been wearing them, just as a matter of course, for quite some time,” said Robert Wisell, who lives in Rotonda West.

“This is supposed to be a free country, right?” Davis said. “We do what we want to do, free right?”

And there are those are not convinced about severity of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think it’s more of a hoax,” Steve Mox said. “I mean, there are some serious matters to it but not completely.”

In Charlotte County, there is no mask mandate. Some people do agree on their use.

“I wear one, and I think everybody should,” said Bill Darby from North Port.

But people disagree on enforcement of mask use.

“A mandate, I struggle with,” Wisell said. “But I do think we need to pay better attention to individuals than we are.”

Many people want to preserve freedom while also preserving safety.

“I don’t want to become infected,” Butera said. “I don’t want to infect anyone else.”

Reporter:Erika Jackson
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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