A sheriff in Florida has banned his deputies and visitors to his offices from wearing face masks.
The Star-Banner in Ocala, Florida, obtained a copy of a memo Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods sent to employees on Tuesday that outlined the new directive.
"My order will stand as is when you are on-duty/working as my employee and representing my office — masks will not be worn," Woods wrote in the email.
There are exceptions to the order, including when deputies and other members of the sheriff's office are working in the courthouse, jail, public schools, and hospitals, and when they are in close proximity to people who are believed to have the coronavirus or if they are deemed high risk should they get sick. But once deputies need to take "enforcement action" that "requires you to give an individual orders/commands to comply, the mask will be immediately removed."
Deputies also will be banned from wearing a mask while working special details or events.
Regarding people who visit a sheriff's office within his jurisdiction, Woods said they are not allowed to wear masks either.
"Effective immediately, any individual walking into any one of our lobbies (which includes the main office and all district offices) that is wearing a mask will be asked to remove it," he wrote. "In light of the current events when it comes to the sentiment and/or hatred toward law enforcement in our country today, this is being done to ensure there is clear communication and for identification purposes of any individual walking into a lobby.
"If a person does not wish to remove the mask they will be asked to leave. If the individual is not comfortable with standing and waiting in the lobby with other individuals, politely ask for their cell number and advise them to stand outside or sit in their vehicle and you will text or call them with their completed transaction."
According to his LinkedIn page, Woods became sheriff in December 2016.
Woods said the belief that wearing masks can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 is not a universal one.
"The fact is, the amount of professionals that give the reason why we should [wear a mask], I can find the exact same amount of professionals that say why we shouldn't," he said. "Since the beginning of this pandemic the operation of this office has not changed and no wearing of masks has been put in place."
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