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Martin County’s mask mandate is now a mask recommendation

Martin County's mask mandate

Martin County’s mask mandate is now a mask recommendation

Martin County, Fl (treasurecoast.com)- After months of being pummeled with emails and phone calls about mandatory wearing of face masks, and hearing hours of angry comments at public meetings, county commissioners Tuesday repealed the controversial mandate in a 3-2 vote.

Instead, Martin County now “strongly recommends” the use of face coverings in public. The recommendation is in effect indefinitely.

The move by the County Commission mirrors action by the Stuart City Commission, which decided May 11 to “recommend” face masks be worn in public. The Stuart commission, however, never went as far as Martin County to impose face-covering requirements in the first place.

“The extended mask mandate has gone on for too long,” Shannon Chapman told commissioners Tuesday. “Masks are not keeping us healthy.”

She was one of only about 10 people speaking during Tuesday’s meeting. Most were in favor of repealing the mandate. Public comments took about 30 minutes, compared to the hours of comments, both pro and con, presented during the contentious mask debates over the summer.

The initial mandate was approved unanimously July 7 to combat the rising number of coronavirus cases. Commissioners Doug Smith, Stacey Hetherington and Commission Chairman Harold Jenkins initially opposed it.

Now, three months later, only commissioners Sarah Heard and Ed Ciampi remained in favor.

After the initial mandate expired Aug. 8, COVID-19 cases were trending upward within a week. The mandate was reinstated Aug. 27.

The commission’s decision follows Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Sept. 25 announcement that Florida is in Phase 3 of reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic.

DeSantis’ order prohibits local governments from imposing fines for coronavirus-related rule violations. Martin County’s mask mandate initially carried fines up to $250 for violations, although it was not enforced.

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