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Palm Beach County has Constitutional authority to issue mask mandate, officials say

12,498 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Palm Beach County, health officials say
Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner at coronavirus news conference, June 26, 2020
Posted at 3:41 PM, Jun 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-26 18:26:33-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Wear your mask. It's an order.

That's the point Palm Beach County leaders tried to drive home during a news conference on Friday afternoon, even saying that commissioners have the Constitutional authority to mandate people wear masks in public to limit the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

"The use of a facial covering may reduce the transmission by more than 50%," Mayor Dave Kerner said.

Dr. Alina Alonso, the health director for Palm Beach County, stressed that COVID-19 is a serious virus.

"This is not chickenpox. This is not the thing that you bring your kids to a party to get," she said. "There are consequences that we still don't know about this disease."

SPECIAL COVERAGE: Coronavirus

Kerner and other county officials spoke at length about a new mandate issued earlier this week which requires everyone in Palm Beach County to wear a face covering inside all buildings, as well as outside when social distancing is not possible or not being practiced.

Kerner said there are several exceptions to the mandate. Among them include:

  • Children under age of 2
  • Children of any age inside a licensed child care facility
  • People who are exercising when social distancing is possible
  • People who are actively eating and drinking inside restaurants
  • People with a medical condition or religious belief that goes against the order

State Attorney Dave Aronberg said the mandate is not optional, and people are legally obligated to follow it.

Dave Aronberg speaks about wearing masks
"Obviously, those individuals who claim that they know the First Amendment have obviously never read the First Amendment," Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg says.

"I saw the arguments by some that said that it's their Constitutional rights not to wear a mask, or it's their absolute personal liberties not to have to wear a mask," Aronberg said. "Obviously, those individuals who claim that they know the First Amendment have obviously never read the First Amendment. Because it is within the authority of the county commission to put forward a mask ordinance. They have the authority under state law. They have the authority under the Constitution."

Anyone who violates the mask order will receive a warning, and repeat offenders could be fined up to $250.

RELATED: 5 things to know about Palm Beach County's mask mandate

Earlier on Friday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he has no plans to issue a statewide mandate on masks, arguing that it would lead to problems.

"To do police and put criminal penalties on that is something that is probably gonna, would backfire," DeSantis said during a news conference in Fort Myers.

SPECIAL COVERAGE: Coronavirus

According to the latest numbers from the Florida Department of Health, there are 12,498 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Palm Beach County.