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Longboat Key Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020 1 month ago

Longboat could renew mask order in late August

Commissioners would have to meet to decide.
by: Mark Bergin Staff Writer

The town is considering the possibility of extending its mandatory mask policy before it expires at the start of September.

Town Manager Tom Harmer said the town commission would need to extend the emergency ordinance which expires at the end of August.

While the commission isn’t set to meet again until Sept. 14, Harmer said commissioners would could hold a virtual emergency meeting before Sept. 1 to extend the mask ordinance.

In July, commissioners voted to require people to wear face coverings in public areas where social distancing guidelines cannot be met. The policy does have exceptions.

Anyone older than 6 years old is required to wear a mask in the town. It includes in public places, indoor places other than a home and outdoor places where social distancing is difficult or not possible. The adult responsible for a child between ages 6-18 and would be responsible if that child is not wearing a mask.

Town attorney Maggie Mooney said in July the town cannot cite a child — anyone younger than 18 years old — for not wearing a mask.

Longboat Key Police Department is responsible for enforcement, which means officers can issue citations, which are not criminal in nature. A first offense is punishable up to $100, second offense $250 and third or subsequent offenses $500.

 Police Chief Pete Cumming said the town has not issued any citations as of Monday afternoon.

“We’re not getting anybody that’s trying to make a point,” Cumming said. “And if that were the case, then we would certainly write a citation and send that individual to the magistrate.”

One of the challenges in enforcing the mask policy is federal law prevents officers from asking anyone about the specifics of their medical condition, which can exempt a person from having to wear a mask.

Cumming said his department is grateful for the cooperation people in the town have given the mask policy.

“We’re happy that most people, even if they don’t entirely agree, are being sensitive to the needs of others,” Cumming said.

Several of the surrounding areas have adopted mask policies of their own, including Manatee County and the city of Sarasota. Plus, many private businesses such as Publix require customers to wear masks.

Harmer issued his latest executive order Monday morning with no changes.

As with Harmer’s July 27 order, it keeps the following places closed: public beach parking, walk-in access to town facilities, the public restrooms at Bayfront Park and Joan M. Durante Park, and the town’s Bayfront Park Recreation Center. Town Hall personnel are available for in-person meetings through appointments.

Harmer is set to re-evaluate his latest executive order on or before Aug. 24.

Longboat Key first closed its 12 public beach access points in March as the pandemic took hold. Pubic beach parking reopened in June before Harmer closed it again on June 30.

Anyone who sees someone without a mask where it is required in Longboat Key can call the police department's non-emergency number at 941-316-1201.


Mark Bergin is the Longboat Key Town Hall reporter for the Observer. He has previously worked as a senior digital producer at WTSP, the CBS affiliate in St. Petersburg. Mark is a graduate of the University of Missouri and grew up in the Chicagoland area.

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