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Mask requirement for Fort Myers Beach goes into effect at midnight, no beach restrictions added

The Fort Myers Beach town council voted Wednesday in favor of a mandatory mask requirement. A mask will be required inside businesses, but not at public parks, beaches, inside hotel rooms, in church, if you have a disability, are a member of law enforcement (police, fire, EMS) or under the age of 6.

If you are found without a mask in any indoor, public space where you are not able to social distance, you could face a fine of $50.

The mask requirement is considered an “emergency declaration,” not an ordinance, and will go into effect midnight Thursday.

The rule does not apply to those seated at restaurants and outdoor spaces like public parks and beaches where you can social distance.

As for beach access, there will be no restrictions implemented for Fort Myers Beach.

“They’re going to be everywhere. People are going to pile on top of each other; they already are,” said Fort Myers Beach Mayor Ray Murphy. “They’re piling on top of each other on the county pier, their piling on top of each other in the county park and it’ll be up and down the island over the weekend so, God help us all.”

The declaration passed 3-2.

Their decision comes after Collier County and the cities of Naples and Marco Island implemented restrictions for the weekend.

The restrictions were put in place after East Coast counties announced their beaches will be closed all weekend, raising concerns that people from there will travel across the Alley to Southwest Florida’s beaches.

County Manager Roger Desjarlais on Wednesday took exception to Collier County Commissioner Penny Taylor saying those from the East Coast should travel north to Lee County.

“Yesterday, Collier County commissioners placed restrictions on beach hours for the Fourth of July holiday weekend, as is their right,” Desjarlais said. “Collier Commissioner Penny Taylor, however, in an on-camera interview, irresponsibly took it a step too far by inviting people from Florida’s East Coast to inundate Lee County beaches. For local governments, it’s challenging enough to navigate through the pandemic and keep residents’ best interests in mind without a Collier commissioner making such a parochial statement at the expense of Lee County’s residents. We encourage people who visit our beach parks this weekend to follow all CDC guidelines, hold themselves accountable and act responsibly.”

Lee County is reiterating it has no plans to close county-owned beaches this weekend but will still increase staff presence for the Fourth as it does every year. There will be an increased deputy presence in parks and on county-owned beaches, and park rangers will be placed in beach parks from Bonita Beach to the Causeway Islands.

The county said rangers can write citations for violations of county ordinances. For trespassing someone from a Lee County park site, rangers coordinate with Lee County Sheriff’s Office deputies.

The county is encouraging visitors to beaches and parks to follow CDC guidelines.

Beaches in Collier County will be open from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. and from 5 p.m. to dusk starting on Friday, July 3. County or city parking stickers are required. Collier commissioners voted to keep those restrictions in place until Miami-Dade and Broward counties open their beaches.

As for the City of Naples, they have chosen to also adopt these same rules, but for Friday through Monday. In addition, the City Pier will be closed to foot traffic and fishing, the City Dock will be closed to foot traffic but fuel sales and charter fishing will be allowed, and City Landings boat ramp will be open.

Marco Island announced Tuesday afternoon it will also adopt the county restrictions for their city beaches for Friday through Sunday.

Reporter:Brea Hollingsworth
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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