Tuesday was a busy day for Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods.
He participated in a 30-minute telephone call with President Trump pledging his support to law enforcement during these trying times.
Then, Sheriff Woods acted on what had been weighing on him for 2 weeks.
He issued a no mask mandate for his deputies.
It is unknown if it is a coincidence that both the Trump phone call and the email being issued happened on the same day.
Sheriff Woods listed his reasons for doing this in his email message.
- He doesn’t believe the science.
His theory is for every source consulted on the importance of wearing masks, there is an alternate source that disputes the significance of masks.
- Woods believes that it is difficult for law enforcement officers to communicate while wearing a mask.
- Within his statement, he made one caveat.
He requested that deputies have masks in their pockets to put on if they enter a nursing home or a situation where there is a known COVID-19 case.
His position can be disputed, but at least he laid out his logic.
What didn’t help his overall message were these statements.
“Now, I can already hear the whining and just so you know I did not make this decision easily…
This is no longer a debate nor is it up for discussion.”
No Masks In Sheriffs’ Offices Either
The no-mask mandate even extends to sheriffs’ offices.
Chief Woods says there are glass barriers between staff and visitors that “the virus cannot magically go thru.”
So for the purposes of clear communication and identification, citizens should remove masks when walking into the lobby.
He then stipulates those that let their masks on will be asked to leave the building.
Or if they prefer, they can provide their phone numbers and wait outside in their cars to be called in.
Not content with having one of the worst outbreaks in Florida, Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods banned mask wearing by his deputies (who constantly travel around and interact with the public). Avoid Ocala like… well… the plague.
— Beau of The Fifth Column (@BeauTFC) August 12, 2020
As expected, the community had mixed reactions to this mandate and shared their comments on the Marion County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page.
Sheriff Woods had supporters who were happy he imposed this no-mask rule.
Some citizens expressed concern for the well being of the people the deputies interact with, and others wondered about the safety of the deputies and their families.
A business owner planning to open a business in the county opted not to because of the Sheriff’s no-mask ordinance.
Case Counts in Marion County
Marion County is located in Central Florida.
It houses The Villages retirement community.
Marion County’s population is 366,000 people.
As of August 13, there have been 6,921 cases of COVID-19 identified.
108 people have died from COVID-19.
Marion County has “minimal to moderate” community spread.
In addition, outbreaks have occurred in correctional facilities.
Latest Science on Mask Wearing
Marion County, Florida Sheriff Billy Woods has barred deputies from wearing facial coverings claiming there's no conclusive evidence that it helps curb the virus.
CDC guidelines DO state that "masks may help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others." pic.twitter.com/kQE70U7NU1
— Newsy (@Newsy) August 13, 2020
Though confusing early in the pandemic, the latest science supports mask wearing.
The mask acts as a physical barrier to prevent droplets from entering the air.
Because there have been so many asymptomatic cases, wearing a mask has emerged as one of the primary non-pharmaceutical ways of preventing COVID-19 from spreading.