Residents of Florida County No Longer Required to Wear Masks After Commission Vote

On Tuesday, the Alachua County Commission in Florida, voted to end an ordinance that required residents to wear protective face masks when in public.

According to the Gainesville Sun, the decision came in a 3-to-2 vote, and under a new county order, masks will be strongly recommended instead of required.

"I think we did a good thing [by having the mask requirement]," County Commissioner Ken Cornell said, according to the Gainesville Sun. "I think we educated the public and we are now ready to lift it as a requirement."

The decision to change the county's face mask requirement stems from a number of lawsuits filed against the previous requirement, put into place on May 1, following Florida Governor Ron DeSantis' phased reopening plan.

On May 8, Childers Law in Gainesville filed the first complaint against the county's mask requirement, suggesting that it should be voided, and the county should not enforce it.

"While my client appreciates that the county is trying to help protect its citizens, it is going too far with the mandatory mask requirement, especially where healthy citizens are concerned," Jeff Childers, president and founder of Childers Law, said, according to the Alachua Chronicle.

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Residents in Florida county no longer required to wear protective face masks. Jonathan Klein/Getty

Shortly after the lawsuit, Mark Sexton, Alachua County spokesperson, told MyCBS4 in Gainesville that while the ordinance is mandatory, the county has not issued any arrests or citations for those not wearing masks.

"We don't have mask patrols on the street," said Sexton. "But if we get a call from a citizen or an employee who says they don't feel safe because people aren't wearing masks in a business, we'll make a phone call. It's not the county commission's goal to arrest people or write citations."

On May 11, Gainesville civil rights attorney, Raemi Eagle-Glenn filed a civil rights complaint against the county's ordinance. The complaint was on behalf of five county residents, according to The Independent Florida Alligator. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida and named all five county commissioners and the county manager as defendants.

According to the Alligator, the lawsuit claims that the face mask requirement in the county discriminates against those with medical conditions or disabilities. "We want the county to understand that what they are doing is unconstitutional," Eagle-Glenn said, according to the Alligator.

A similar situation occurred in mid-April in Florida's Hillsborough County, as the county's Emergency Policy Group decided to deny a proposal to make wearing a face mask mandatory and instead residents are strongly encouraged to wear one.

In Florida, the new coronavirus, which causes the respiratory disease COVID-19, continues to spread, as there are currently over 46,000 confirmed cases and at least 2,052 deaths, according to a tracker provided by Johns Hopkins University.