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Indian River County extends mask ordinance for additional 60 days

Measure passes by vote of 4-1
Posted at 12:31 PM, Nov 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-17 18:05:46-05

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY, Fla. — Multiple states, including Florida, continue to see a surge in coronavirus cases, which saw the U.S. break a case record on Friday.

To help reduce the spread of COVID-19, Indian River County commissioners on Tuesday extended the current mask ordinance for another 60 days.

SPECIAL COVERAGE: Coronavirus

The vote to continue the mask ordinance passed 4-1 with Chairman Joe Flescher voting against it since the county has no penalties to enforce it.

However, commissioners on Tuesday did eliminate fines for people who do not comply with the ordinance, which existed in a previous version of the mandate.

Employees in Indian River County who serve the public must still wear masks, as well as anyone riding public transportation or going inside county buildings.

At Tuesday's meeting, mask opponents tried to convince a new county commission to let the mandate expire.

However, the county health department administrator presented charts showing the number of COVID-19 cases are on the rise with the highest positivity rates since March.

"In terms of public health, we are currently under a public health emergency for COVID," said Miranda Hawker, administrator of Florida Department of Health in Indian River County.

But there were opposing views from the outgoing and incoming chairman of the county.

"My position on this has not changed. I support mask usage and I support extending the ordinance," said Indian River County commissioner Susan Adams.

"People have become faceless, and it's because of the facemask," said Flescher.

Indian River County Chairman Joe Flescher
Indian River County Chairman Joe Flescher was the only member of the commission to vote against extending the mask mandate on Nov. 17, 2020.

Darcy Dunbar, the owner of Maison Beach, a unique gift and home decor shop in Vero Beach, said she isn't a fan of wearing a mask, but says she was glad to hear the county keep the mandate in place for now.

"It needs to be done. It's just that simple. Everybody needs to protect everybody, and it's the only way we're going to stay open, and I don't want to close again for six weeks," Dunbar said.

Commissioners will once again take up this issue in January.

Darcy Dunbar
Darcy Dunbar, the Vero Beach owner of Maison Beach, said she supported Indian River County commissioner extended the mask ordinance.

CDC: Mask Wearing Saves Lives

Health officials from the CDC said this month that simply wearing a face mask could reduce U.S. economic losses by $1 trillion and effectively stop the spread and reception of the virus.

Currently, 36 states and the District of Columbia have mask mandates, according to the American Association of Retired Persons, which publishes an up-to-date list of tracking requirements across the country.

However, Florida is not among the states with a mask mandate.

Following a Sept. 25 executive order by Gov. Ron DeSantis, local governments are barred from assessing fines to people who do not comply with local mask ordinances.