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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.”

Go deeper

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Biden: It's "not the time to relax" COVID mitigation efforts — Tracking coronavirus variants through sewage.
  2. Vaccine: FDA advisory panel endorses J&J COVID vaccine for emergency use — About 20% of U.S. adults have received first vaccine dose, White House says — New data reignites the debate over coronavirus vaccine strategy.
  3. Economy: What's really going on with the labor market.
  4. Local: All adult Minnesotans will likely be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine by summer — Another wealthy Florida community receives special access to COVID-19 vaccine.
  5. Sports: Poll weighs impact of athlete vaccination.
  6. World: Brazil's capital enters 24-hour lockdown as coronavirus cases surge.

The Thanksgiving time bomb

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are at new peaks, cities and states are weighing second lockdowns, and flu season is upon us — but we're all looking the other way.

Why it matters: Pandemic fatigue has set in and the nation has collectively stopped caring just in time for the holiday season. This Thanksgiving could be catastrophic for public health.

Nov 19, 2020 - Sports

NFL expands "intensive" coronavirus restrictions to all teams

Defensive end Arden Key and offensive tackle Sam Young at Allegiant Stadium on Nov. 1. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The NFL announced Wednesday that all 32 teams must follow the league's "intensive" coronavirus restrictions for the rest of the season starting this Saturday.

Why it matters: The decision comes after the Las Vegas Raiders placed seven more players on its coronavirus reserve list, bringing the total to 11, according to ESPN.