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Sarasota Monday, Jun. 29, 2020 1 month ago

Sarasota City Commission approves mask requirements

In a 4-1 vote, the commission adopted an ordinance mandating face coverings when social distancing is not possible in public settings.
by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

Beginning July 1, individuals in the city of Sarasota will be required to wear face coverings in indoor settings outside of the home and outdoor public places when social distancing is not possible.

The City Commission voted 4-1 today to adopt an emergency ordinance mandating the use of masks as part of an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The ordinance is set to remain in effect for 60 days unless the commission extends or repeals it.

The ordinance includes a series of exceptions where masks are not required, including some adjustments to the language in the regulations staff proposed. Those exceptions include:

  • Individuals with an underlying health condition that would be impaired by the use of a mask;
  • Children under 18 years old;
  • Individuals eating or drinking;
  • Public safety and emergency workers, whose equipment requirements will be overseen by the agencies that employ them;
  • Individuals at schools or facilities under the control of other governmental jurisdiction, where regulations will be set by other officials.

The regulations will not require the use of masks when individuals are only in close proximity to people living in the same household as them. 

The penalty for noncompliance is a civil citation and fine of up to $500, with a $50 penalty if the individual does not contest the citation. The commission said its preference is to first issue a warning and a mask to individuals not following the ordinance. The board agreed to explore alternative non-monetary penalties for violations at a future meeting.

The commission agreed a mask requirement was an appropriate response to a rising volume and rate of identified COVID-19 cases locally and throughout Florida. Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch said the proposed ordinance received support from members of Sarasota’s medical and business community.

“I do believe the science and the facts are there for us to craft an ordinance,” Commissioner Shelli Freeland Eddie said.

One point of contention during the commission’s discussion related to whether the ordinance should apply both indoors and outdoors when social distancing is not possible. Commissioner Hagen Brody said he did not believe the city could adequately enforce the regulations outdoors and sought to limit the focus to just indoor settings.

Because of his opposition to the outdoor provisions, Brody cast the lone vote against the adopted mask ordinance.

“It’s not narrowly crafted for something that is really unprecedented in a lot of ways,” Brody said.

The rest of the commission felt the requirements were warranted in outdoor settings where people could not maintain physical distance.

“The virus doesn't just attract and attack inside,” Commissioner Willie Shaw said.

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