For months, public health officials struggled to convince people that a square of fabric was an effective way to manage the spread of coronavirus, which now claimed the lives of more than 165,000 people in the U.S. And now, even as President Trump finally claims that wearing a face mask is patriotic, a Florida sheriff has banned his deputies from wearing face masks.
As reported by a local news outlet, the sheriff also banned wearing masks inside his office. In an email to his staff, Billy Woods wrote, "my order will stand as is when you are on-duty/working as my employee and representing my office — masks will not be worn.”
The order comes amid rising coronavirus numbers across the country — especially in Florida, as well as other states that rushed to reopen businesses, send students back to school, and outright denied the efficacy of scientifically proven mechanisms to control the virus's spread.
Still, that doesn't seem to matter to Woods, whose job is in theory to protect and serve Marion County residents. Woods did list some exceptions to his anti-mask rule: Masks can be worn in jails, court houses, and schools, but he wrote in an email that "for all of these exceptions, the moment that enforcement action is to be taken and it requires you to give an individual orders/commands to comply, the mask will be immediately removed."
The sheriff said that masks will not be allowed at special events and that if any deputies are asked about why they're not wearing a mask, they should respond by saying, "I am not required to wear a mask nor will I, per the order of the sheriff."
Masks will not be permitted by visitors to Woods's office either. "If a person does not wish to remove the mask they will be asked to leave," Woods said. He explained that if someone doesn't feel comfortable, a sheriff's deputy should "politely ask for their cell number and advise them to stand outside or sit in their vehicle and you will text or call them with their completed transaction."
The sheriff additionally invoked the anti-police sentiment felt around the country, as illustrated by the racial justice uprisings, describing his nonsensical decree as a safety issue. "In light of the current events when it comes to the sentiment and/or hatred toward law enforcement in our country today, this is being done to ensure there is clear communication and for identification purposes of any individual walking into a lobby," he wrote. Still, at a time like this, it's unlikely that enforcing rules that put people in harm's way is going to make police more respected.