After heated debate, mask mandate is extended in Collier County

After much heated discussion, Collier County Commissioners voted 3-2 to extend the mask mandate until October 22.

Over 40 people spoke in-person, while others appeared digitally during the Collier County Commissioners meeting to discuss whether they believed the mask mandate should continue.

One doctor says the mask mandate is helping people. ‘”It is working,” said Dr. David Linder from NCH.

Dr. Linder added.”It is protecting the population. it is allowing commerce in our community to engage in business and personal activity.”

Linder and others wanted to urge Collier County Commissioners to extend the mask mandate during Thursday afternoon’s meeting.

“It avoids a shutdown,” another person reminded Commissioners.

Most businesses, like Alice Sweetwater’s Bar and Grill are happy to still be open. But General Manager Mary Beth Atwell says requiring customers to wear masks difficult.

“I feel like more people are heading into downtown Naples or out to Marco, but more downtown Naples because you don’t have to wear a mask out there,” said Atwell.

So businesses in the county could be losing money because people feel so strongly about masks.

“People feel very strongly, either they’re for mask or not for mask and that is determining where they go,” Atwell added.

The issue of requiring masks and of extending the order caused a packed house for Thursday’s commissioner’s meeting.

“We will not comply No more! We [are] done with you!” some chanted once the decision was made.

Some say masks are just plain uncomfortable. “Having something put over my face just triggers me into a severe anxiety attack.”

What will be done for people with disabilities? “Supposedly if there’s health issues you can go into the store without a mask, but I’m harassed from the moment I walk into the door,” said Jesenia Martinez.

Commissioners are also considering hiring outside counsel for a lawsuit over the mask ordinance. The lawsuit was brought against Seed To Table owner Alfie Oakes.

His lawyer also spoke today. “The constitution has been around for 200 years and I don’t think you want to dispatch with that either,”  said one commissioner.

“You’re absolutely right,” said Oakes’ lawyer. “That’s why we’re going to go to court. Federal court and have that discussion!”

Many speakers were upset that they didn’t get to begin until nearly three hours after the meeting began. They also say their time may be cut short and could be limited to two minutes per person.

Reporter:Gina Tomlinson
Writer:Drew Hill
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