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Opinions on masks vary across Florida as mandates, emergency orders come to an end

'We've had our vaccinations, but we still follow the rules,' Vero Beach resident says
Woman wearing mask
Posted at 2:23 PM, May 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-07 18:27:58-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — To wear a mask or not to wear a mask. That's the question on the mind of many people these days.

This also comes as Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended all emergency orders this week related to the coronavirus pandemic and counties across Florida lift their mask mandates.


WPTV wanted to gauge the pulse of our communities and find out what residents think about the topic.

Going maskless is a more common occurrence now that there's no mandate forcing people to wear a facial covering.

What WPTV found traveling across the five-county area is that opinions vary widely and many still choose to follow CDC guidelines.

Palm Beach County

"I'm a supporter of that because, actually, I can't breathe under this thing," said Ayisha Wright of West Palm Beach.

For the first time in more than a year, people in Palm Beach County don't have to wear a mask, but it may be a little harder to let go for some than others.

"It's now become a habit, but I really hate it. It's so annoying, but yeah it's a habit now," Wright said.

Ayisha Wright, Palm Beach County resident
Ayisha Wright says she doesn't like wearing a mask, but it has become a habit.

"I'm extremely happy. I don't think they should have been here this long in the first place," said Paul Piverotto of Palm Beach County.

Piverotto said he's seeing more people stop wearing masks in West Palm Beach.

However, facial coverings are still a must to enter government buildings and some businesses are still requiring them too.

"I'll wear it only because I don't want to get into a physical altercation with somebody, and you know I've seen people get pretty heated over this stuff, so I just do it because I don't want to go there and get into a fight," Piverotto said.

Paul Piverotto
Paul Piverotto says he continues to wear a mask to avoid conflict with other people.

Okeechobee County

But there are fewer scuffles if you head west.

Masks were never required by county leaders in Okeechobee County, adding a different perspective to the conversation.

"I thought it was a joke, all political," said Okeechobee native Buddy Davis.

He has lived in Okeechobee for 69 years and says masks were never popular with the locals.

"There was a lot of people with a mask, but we have a lot of northerners come in and … most of the people that’s been here they ignored it and went on," Davis said. "Then you see people driving down the road in a car with the windows up with a mask on, that's just idiotic."

Buddy Davis, Okeechobee resident
Buddy Davis says wearing masks wasn't popular in Okeechobee County.

"People definitely wore them a little bit, but kids our age and stuff they don’t really care,” said Tyler Lamb, Okeechobee County resident.

"Around here, most everybody's almost quit. The older people, I guess, are still wearing them, but I've had my shots, but I still wear them if I go into a store," said Howard Kindell, Okeechobee County resident.

Indian River County

Just east and north of Okeechobee, in Indian River County, it's a different story.

"I mean, everywhere I go I always wear my mask, in public places, no matter where it is," said 23-year-old Bobby Hudson of Vero Beach.

A mask mandate would still be in place until July in Indian River County had the governor not suspended all emergency orders.

Bobby Hudson, Indian River County resident
Bobby Hudson says he always wears a mask in public places.

Tourists and locals are enjoying the first taste of summer weather maskless in Vero Beach.

"We are really are happy about it. I mean, we are still careful. We've had our vaccinations, but we still follow the rules. If they say it's time everybody should put one on, then we put one on," Loretta Harmon of Vero Beach said.

When asked if restaurants are asking people to wear masks inside, Harmon said "nobody asks us."

St. Lucie County

At the Tradition community of Port Saint Lucie, WPTV checked out what people are saying about masks.

"I'm honestly relieved that I don't have to wear it anymore because it's just like, it was just a burden on my face," said Jordan Kavanaugh of Port St. Lucie.

The mask mandate was repealed last month in St. Lucie County.

"I have very mixed emotions about it. I myself feel more comfortable wearing a mask, even though I'm vaccinated, but they just don’t know enough about it, so I think they are maybe moving a little bit too fast," said Denise Laino, St. Lucie County resident.

Denise Laino, St. Lucie County resident
Denise Laino of St. Lucie County says she still feels comfortable wearing a mask even though she is vaccinated.

Martin County

Further south in Martin County, downtown Stuart's waterfront views are one to take and breathe in.

"More and more people are leaving their masks at home," said Laura Richardson, a Stuart resident.

No mask mandate has been in place in Martin County since October.

But if you get on the courtesy tram in Stuart, you better have your mask ready.

Tram driver Gary Zingo said he'll hand out spare masks if he has to.

"From time to time, we've gotten statements [from people saying,] 'We'll, I've had my two shots. I don't need to wear a mask.' Well, I’ve had my two shots as well, but I wear one, OK, because the city wants me to," Zingo said.

Gary Zingo, Stuart Tram driver
Gary Zingo, a Stuart Tram driver, says masks are still required for riders.

"I have seen less and less people wearing the masks. I think that is happening more that the vaccinations are happening now," Richardson said.

The CDC still recommends that people wear masks in public and anywhere they will be around other people. Masks are still required on planes, buses, trains and on any public transportation within the U.S. but as states lift emergency orders, people get to decide to put a mask on or not.

"I guess I'm just going to go with the flow and see what everyone else is recommending. It's more or less what we’re doing to make people also feel safe," Richardson said.