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Longboat Key Tuesday, Mar. 16, 2021 8 months ago

Longboat to vote on mask mandate renewal

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An emergency meeting is set for March 22.
by: Mark Bergin Staff Writer

The Longboat Key Town Commission is set to hold an emergency meeting later this month to discuss the possibility of extending the town’s mandatory mask ordinance.

The emergency meeting is planned for 10 a.m. Monday, March 22.

“The new commission can address the expiring mask ordinance, so we’ll work with [Town Attorney] Maggie [Mooney] on that, but we’re looking to have that right after the statutory meeting,” Town Manager Tom Harmer said. “That will give us the latest information possible before we go into that meeting.”

At the statutory meeting, Penny Gold will be sworn in as the District 2 commissioner and Debra Williams will be sworn in as the District 4 commissioner. Incumbent District 2 Commissioner George Spoll opted not to run again and incumbent District 4 Commissioner Jack Daly reached term limits.

The Town Commission is set to decide on March 22 how it wants to handle the vacancy left by District 5 Commissioner Ed Zunz, who announced his resignation earlier this month.

Longboat Key leaders have yet to decide how long the mandatory mask extension would last if it gets approved. Town commissioners have unanimously voted twice to extend the mask ordinance for 90 days; first at the end of August and then again in November.

The town can still enforce its mask policy as it relates to private businesses even though Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended individual fines and penalties related to local mask ordinances.

On Feb. 17, the Sarasota City Commission voted against extending its mandatory mask ordinance, with several city commissioners citing DeSantis’ decision as to the reason why. The city of Sarasota’s mandatory mask mandate ended on Feb. 25.

On March 15, Sarasota commissioners reconsidered their vote but failed to carry the required 4-1 majority over questions of enforcement.

In Longboat Key, many businesses started their own mask polices before the town began requiring them ahead of the 2020 Independence holiday weekend.

In the past 12 months, 197 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in people calling Longboat Key home, peaking in January when 46 residents tested positive. In February, 31 tested positive, and in March there have been four cases through March 13.

State health department data indicates 5,072 people from the town’s ZIP code have received at least one COVID-19 vaccines. 

Florida this week lowered its age requirement from 65 to 60 to receive COVID-19 vaccines.

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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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