Council repeals mask mandate
Masks no longer required on Fort Myers Beach
While businesses can still require patrons to wear masks at their establishments, it is no longer the law of the land on Fort Myers Beach.
The Town of Fort Myers Beach Council lifted its mask mandate on Monday around the same time that Gov. Ron DeSantis declared by executive order that he was suspending all statewide emergency orders relating to COVID-19. Mayor Ray Murphy said the council’s vote was not a reaction to the governor’s announcement.
The council voted 4-1 with Councilmember Bill Veach opposed.
Councilmember Dan Allers said that increasing vaccinations of people “protecting themselves” was reason to lift the mandate. He said stores have been taking down signs requiring masks to enter.
In the week before the announcement by DeSantis, a slight majority of commercial and retail businesses in town did not have signs requiring masks at their entrances.
Vice Mayor Rexann Hosafros said she thought it was time to lift the mandate due to conflicts with recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Hosafros noted that the CDC is still encouraging people to wear masks if they haven’t been given their second shot or been fully vaccinated.
Mayor Ray Murphy said it was still important for businesses to allow workers to wear masks and that those who do should not be ridiculed, as has been happening in some corners of the Beach.
Murphy said he was “proud of the fact” that the town council was “one of the first” in Florida to enact a mask mandate and “one of the last to repeal it.”
Murphy said he will be encouraging people to continue wearing masks at public places such as CVS or Public.
“We did the best we could,” Murphy said.
“Masks work,” Veach said. Getting vaccinated it “probably the most patriotic thing you can do,” he said. “We aren’t replacing the mask mandate with an anti-mask mandate.”
The town will still maintain the right to require masks to be worn on certain town properties and for certain programs such as at Bay Oaks Recreational Campus.
Town Manager Roger Hernstadt said the weight room at Bay Oaks may be a place where masks are required due to the small space there.
Hernstadt noted that there are employees at Bay Oaks Recreational Campus who are younger and who have not been vaccinated yet.
During a discussion about the approval process for special permits Veach also expressed concern about the town encouraging gatherings which could put the public health at risk.
After the meeting, Murphy was critical of the order by DeSantis which would give the state legislature and the governor the power to strike down emergency orders by towns.
Murphy said the town’s mask mandate protected citizens. “I’m sure we kept people healthy,” he said.
Masks had been required of those six and older in situations where people were unable to socially distance from people not in their home or families, or inside businesses. There were exceptions for those dining.
While the town’s mandate did carry potential fines for violators, none were ever issued.