This afternoon, Osceola County officials released a new version of the declaration requiring all people ages 2 and up to wear a face covering in public in order to limit the spread of COVID-19, one without potential fines or jail time for violating it.
That followed a morning County Commission meeting where board members expressed concern about the penalties. Commission Chair Viviana Janer, also part of the county’s Executive Policy Group, agreed to bring it for review with that board, which meets under local Declarations of Emergency like the one the county is now in for the third week due to coronavirus.
Hours later, the new ordinance lacked the passage listing a possible $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail for violating the it.
It still reads with the word required in Paragraph 2a: “Every person working, living, visiting, or doing business in Osceola County is required to wear a cloth facial covering consistent with the current CDC guidelines while in any public place.”
The new one notes it “replaces Executive Order #4 pertaining to COVID-19.”
The order makes exceptions for people with a medical condition that “would cause impairment” by wearing a mask, without face-to-face contact with the public at work, and those exercising.
Janer heard concerns from board members Fred Hawkins and Peggy Choudhry about the mandate, which Hawkins asked be more of a recommendation. He brought up unforeseen issues, such as bus drivers passing passengers at a stop without a mask.
“I know the policy board isn’t acting without doing what they think is best,” he said. “I just think it would be as effective to make recommendations. Those with physical limitations are having a problem right now getting a waiver from their doctor. And putting people in jail risks infecting the jail.”
“I totally support public safety, but we should do more to ask residents to self-govern. Do whatever you can to limit your exposure, like limiting the number of family members who go shopping with you. ”
Choudhry said the ordinance doesn’t address the homeless population who might not have access to masks, or out-of-town truck drivers making a stop who might not be aware.
Janer said she stands by the declaration for the masks as a layer of protection for the community, but was amicable to discussing removing the fines or jail time. The Executive Policy Group met a couple hours after the Commission meeting.
“The fine and jail time was not originally part of it. It wasn’t made out to be a police-state situation, but that’s how it’s being perceived in the community,” she said to the Commission. “It’s the matter of safety I stand by.”