Aug 12, 2020 - Health

Florida sheriff bans employees from wearing masks

Billy Woods.

Sheriff woods. Photo: Gerardo Mora/Getty Images

Sheriff Billy Woods of Marion County, Fla., prohibited his employees from wearing masks at work on Tuesday, disputing — in spite of scientific evidence — that they help curb the spread of coronavirus, the Ocala Star-Banner reports.

Why it matters: Many large police departments only suggest officers wear masks, and some have faced public scrutiny for tenuous or nonexistent mask policies. But Woods is among the first law enforcement officials to outright ban masks for his department, according to the Washington Post.

The big picture: Most experts in public health and other fields have said that wearing a mask is critical to helping slow the spread of the virus.

  • CDC director Robert Redfield said last month that the U.S. could get the outbreak under control in four to eight weeks if every American wore a mask in public.
  • Mask-wearing was largely a partisan issue in the first few months of the pandemic, but President Trump and many Republicans have come around to the consensus that masks are important when social distancing is not possible.
  • Woods' ban came the same day Florida's health department reported 276 new coronavirus deaths — surpassing the state's previous record.

What he's saying: “We can debate and argue all day of why and why not. The fact is, the amount of professionals that give the reason why we should, I can find the exact same amount of professionals that say why we shouldn’t," Woods wrote in an email to his staff, which was first reported by the Ocala Star-Banner.

  • "This is no longer a debate nor is it up for discussion. Please keep in mind this entire pandemic is fluid and constantly changing the way things are done. However, my orders will be followed or my actions will be swift to address.”
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