STUART, Fla. — Martin County leaders passed a new mask mandate Tuesday after the first one expired earlier this month.
The new ordinance passed by a vote of 3-2.
SPECIAL COVERAGE: Coronavirus
Commissioners Sarah Heard, Ed Ciampi and Doug Smith voted to support the measure while Commissioners Stacy Hetherington and Harold Jenkins voted against the ordinance.
The first mask mandate expired on Aug. 7 and was replaced with an ordinance that simply encouraged people to wear a face covering.
The new mandate includes several exemptions and required a simple majority vote in order to pass.
Offenders who do not abide by the ordinance can be fined $50 for the first offense, $100 for the second offense and $250 for the third offense and each subsequent offense.
Heard said Tuesday she was concerned that the county's coronavirus rate was still rising, leading her to support the measure.
"There is inarguably no more effective precaution we can take to decrease transmissions of this fatal virus that wearing masks," Heard said. "Mask supporters are overwhelmingly in the majority in Martin County."
Jenkins said he felt the cases were under control in Martin County and did not believe another mandate was necessary at this time.
"The lion's share of people out there are (wearing masks). They don't have to be told to do so," Jenkins said. "If these numbers start to go up, then yes, I'm completely for it, but they're not up. There's nothing to justify us as county commissioners telling the public to do something."
The new mask mandate, which orders residents to wear face coverings while in public, will last until the county's state of emergency remains in effect.
Face coverings are not required for the following persons:
- Children either under the age of six or in the custody of a licensed childcare facility, including schools, summer camps and daycare centers
- Persons prohibited from wearing face coverings by federal or state safety or health regulations
- Public safety, fire or other life safety personnel that have personal protective equipment requirements governed by their agencies
- Persons actively engaged in exercise and who are social distancing in accordance with CDC guidelines
- Persons providing or receiving goods and services from a business or establishment for the shortest practical period of time during which the receipt of such goods or services necessarily precludes the wearing of a face covering such as, but not limited to, consuming food or beverage or receiving dental services, facial grooming or treatment
- Persons who have a medical condition or disability that makes the wearing of a face covering unsafe
- Persons assisting individuals who are hearing impaired or who rely on reading lips in order to communicate may temporarily remove face coverings
- Persons in private rooms of a lodging establishment, such as a hotel, motel or vacation rental; however, face coverings must be worn in all indoor common areas
- Persons engaged in outdoor work or recreation with appropriate social distancing pursuant to CDC guidelines in place and being practiced
Residents sound off on new mandate
Manuela Bentley, the owner of Simple Pleasures Bath and Body in downtown Stuart, said she was relieved to hear the mandate passed.
"It's not just about the shopping experience. It's not just about me making money. It's also about keeping society safe," Bentley said.
However, others said the new ordinance is not needed.
Amy Pritchett is a part of a group pushing back against the mask mandate. She said her group previously filed a lawsuit against the commission, but when the first mandate expired, so did their suit. After Tuesday's new ordinance, her group is considering taking additional action.
"This is dividing our county, and we’ve turned everyday residents into the COVID police," Pritchett said.
In downtown Stuart on Tuesday, Kevin Payne was accepting this new way of life.
"I’m 63 years old, and I'm in that (vulnerable to the coronavirus) 'group,' but I have felt fine during this whole thing because I think I’ve been doing what it needs to take to stay safe," Payne said.
There have been 4,112 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Martin County as of Tuesday morning with 112 deaths.