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Town of Fort Myers Beach Council renews mask mandate

By Nathan Mayberg - Editor | Feb 17, 2021

The Town of Fort Myers Beach Council voted 3-2 on Tuesday to extend its mask mandate. / File photo by Nathan Mayberg

The Town of Fort Myers Beach Council voted 3-2 last week to renew its emergency declaration mandating masks in town, while Mayor Ray Murphy announced this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade in town will be canceled for the second straight year.

Voting in support of the mandate were Fort Myers Beach Mayor Ray Murphy, Vice Mayor Rexann Hosafros and Councilmember Bill Veach.

Councilmembers Dan Allers and Jim Atterholt voted against extending the mask mandate.

“I would just like to put it on the record that I don’t feel that we’re in the need of having this declaration,” Allers said.

“I think following the governor’s and the state’s and the county’s lead with the vaccines that we have and education that’s out there I think continue to educate but not eliminate. His strategy seems to be working fairly well. I don’t see that there’s a need to have this emergency declaration,” Allers said.

The Town of Fort Myers Beach Council voted 3-2 on Tuesday to extend its mask mandate. / File photo by Nathan Mayberg

Murphy and Veach expressed concern about the new variants to the coronavirus which have been rising in Florida.

“We need to get the numbers down so low that the virus can’t continue,” Veach said.

“We are not out of the woods yet,” Murphy said. “The fact that we have come this far, we should continue the path that we are on to ensure that we don’t reverse this.”

Murphy said the number of COVID-19 cases have been decreasing nationally due to the wearing of facemasks, social distancing and vaccinations. Though the number of cases are slowing, Murphy said there “are still lots and lots of cases.”

Murphy said he cringes when he sees the way some are “on top of each other.”

Atterholt said he objected to the issuance of fines against those in violation of the ordinance and was also concerned whether the town had the ability to collect the fines. Gov. Ron DeSantis has previously issued declarations waiving fines related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It would have to be the worst of the worst conditions for something like that,” Murphy said. “We don’t want to levy fines against people. That’s not the intention here. We want people to wear masks.”

To date, the town has not issued fines for violations of the ordinance though it reserves the right to for those who don’t wear masks when unable to socially distance.

The town’s ordinance allows for fines of $50 to individuals who don’t wear masks in areas where they can’t socially distance and up to $500 for businesses who don’t comply with mask-wearing.

“Just the thought of having that levy against you might bring pause to some people,” Murphy said.

Masks are currently required for those over the age of six who are unable to socially distance. The exceptions to the ordinance include those who are being seated for dining.

St. Patrick’s Day nixed

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Murphy announced the Fort Myers Beach St. Patrick’s Day Parade will be canceled. Murphy, who organizes the parade, said he couldn’t apply for a permit to hold the parade this year “in good conscience” due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“That is not going to happen,” Murphy said. “Hopefully next year will be a better year for everybody for all of the events and hopefully we will get back to normal. I will be with you in spirit that day.”

Last year’s Fort Myers Beach St. Patrick’s Day Parade was also canceled due to the pandemic.

New slide at pool

The community pool at Bay Oaks Recreation Center will get a new slide for its children’s pool. The Fort Myers Beach Council approved a contract of $98,433 with A-OK Playgrounds for the work.