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Florida sheriff issues directive to officers: Don't wear a face covering while on-duty


The sheriff cited debate over mask effectiveness


A Florida sheriff has banned his officers from wearing face masks.

Amid debate over the effectiveness of face coverings, Marion County Sheriff Billy Wood has made the decision for his 900 employees: Under most circumstances, there shall be no wearing of face masks during work.

In an email to the staff on Tuesday, Wood said, according to the Ocala Star-Banner:

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. Since the beginning of this pandemic the operation of this office has not changed and no wearing of masks has been put in place.

There are a few exceptions to Wood's directive.

Some officers who work in schools, the courthouse, the jail, at a hospital, and officers who are in contact with a person suspected of having the coronavirus or an individual who is high-risk for contracting the virus are allowed to wear face masks.

Wood also said that members of the public who enter the Marion County Sheriff's Office or any of its outposts who are "wearing a mask will be asked to remove it." If they refuse, they will be asked to leave the building, Wood said.

There is debate over whether on-duty police officers should wear face coverings. The concern is that officers cannot be understood when their mouth is covered.

Meanwhile, debate rages in Marion County over whether there should be a face mask mandate.

The city council of Ocala, the largest city in Marion County, passed a face mask mandate last week, which was promptly vetoed by Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn, a Republican.

The police chiefs of each of Marion County's three cities — Greg Graham in Ocala, Terry Holland in Belleview, and Mike McQuaig in Dunnellon — each told the Star-Banner that officers are not required to wear face masks while on duty. They each cited potential communication problems associated with coverings.

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