Florida Sheriff orders deputies not to wear masks, bars masked civilians from entering office

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A Florida sheriff has banned deputies from wearing face covers in most workplaces, authorities said on Wednesday, even as the state continues to fight record numbers of coronavirus.

Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods insisted there was no conclusive evidence that wearing masks curbs the spread of the virus – despite explicit CDC guidelines that say exactly that.

“Now I can hear the moans already and just to let you know I didn’t make this decision easily and weighed it in the past 2 weeks,” according to a memo Woods wrote to staff and was provided to NBC News by the Sheriff’s Office.

“We can debate and discuss the why and the why all day. The point is, the number of professionals who give the reason why we should, I can find exactly the same number of professionals who say why we shouldn’t. “

The policy applies to all 900 employees in the department and Woods has said his decision is final.

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“This is no longer a debate or a discussion,” he wrote.

Marion County, with a population of approximately 365,000, is the heart of Horse County, Florida. The county seat is in Ocala, approximately 40 miles south of Gainesville.

The Woods directive sets out a handful of settings where masks would be needed, such as in hospitals, nursing homes, courts, schools, prisons or a COVID-19 “mailing address alert”.

Woods anticipates the community’s refusal and has told employees to stay away from anyone criticizing his measure.

“If at any time you come across someone complaining, berating you, or just being a difficult person, you will politely and professionally tell them, ‘I am not required to wear a mask and I will not, in accordance with to the Sheriff’s Order ‘and then get away from them,’ the sheriff wrote.

“From there, it will be my duty and my responsibility to take care of the person and respond to their problem, complaint or question.”

The policy would be in full effect inside the sheriff’s buildings and civilians entering that office would not be allowed to wear a mask.

If that civilian does not want to go without a mask, he will be asked to exit the building and leave a cell phone number so he can call and be asked to come back inside when a sheriff employee is free to leave them. meet.

“In light of current events regarding sentiment and / or hatred towards law enforcement in our country today, this is done to ensure clear communication and for the purposes of identification of any person entering a hall, ”Woods wrote. . “All of our lobbies have glass barriers between you and them that the virus cannot magically break through. “

A spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Health in Marion County declined to comment immediately on Wednesday.

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