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

Sep 23, 2020 - Health

CDC director says over 90% of Americans have not yet been exposed to coronavirus

CDC Director Robert Redfield said at a Senate hearing Wednesday that preliminary data shows that over 90% of Americans remain susceptible to COVID-19 — meaning they have not yet been exposed to the coronavirus.

Why it matters: The U.S. surpassed 200,000 coronavirus deaths this week — the most recorded in the world — and over 6.8 million Americans have contracted the virus so far.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. EST: 32,135,220 — Total deaths: 981,660 — Total recoveries: 22,149,441Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m EST: 6,975,980 — Total deaths: 202,738 — Total recoveries: 2,710,183 — Total tests: 98,481,026Map.
  3. Politics: House Democrats prepare new $2.4 trillion coronavirus relief package.
  4. Health: Cases are surging again in 22 states — New York will conduct its own review of coronavirus vaccine.
  5. Business: America is closing out its strongest quarter of economic growth.
  6. Technology: 2020 tech solutions may be sapping our resolve to beat the pandemic.
  7. Sports: Pac-12 will play this fall despite ongoing pandemic — Here's what college basketball will look like this season.
  8. Science: Global coronavirus vaccine initiative launches without U.S. or China — During COVID-19 shutdown, a common sparrow changed its song.

Coronavirus cases rise in 22 states

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Note: Texas added a backlog of cases on Sept. 22, removing that from the 7-day average Texas' cases increased 28.3%; Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Sara Wise/Axios

The coronavirus is surging once again across the U.S., with cases rising in 22 states over the past week.

The big picture: There isn't one big event or sudden occurrence that explains this increase. We simply have never done a very good job containing the virus, despite losing 200,000 lives in just the past six months, and this is what that persistent failure looks like.

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