How is the facial covering mandate being enforced?
BY JENNIFER CABRERA
Alachua County released its latest Emergency Order on May 2, and one of the provisions is a requirement for “persons working in or visiting” various places to wear facial coverings. The order is worded as a requirement on citizens, not on businesses, so it doesn’t appear that businesses can be held responsible for enforcing it, but several people have asked us what it means for their businesses. We asked several local law enforcement agencies how they plan to enforce the order.
Art Forgey, Public Information Officer for the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, said, “I don’t see us having much involvement in this, as I believe businesses will self-police themselves. With that being said, the Sheriff’s Office will continue to work closely with county government and county code enforcement; information can be reported to the county resource portal and 311. We will continue to educate the public, and the Sheriff’s Office stance will be and has always been that citations or charges will only be a last resort.”
Chief Inspector Jorge Campos of the Gainesville Police Department said, “If we, meaning the city, receives a complaint about individuals not wearing masks or face coverings in the listed establishments according to the emergency order, our codes enforcement officers will respond to the business and have a discussion with the store management about how both the customer and the store management are liable to be charged with a violation of the emergency order for not wearing a mask or face covering while inside the establishment.
“If continued non-compliance occurs, then a GPD officer will be called to issue a notice to appear to the store management, if the store is not ensuring the occupants are complying.
“If the store is taking reasonable measures to ensure everyone inside is wearing a mask or face covering, but the customer is refusing to wear it while inside, then GPD can assist the store management in trespassing the customer from the store, or in extreme circumstances, charge the customer with the violation of emergency order.
“Our overall goal is to gain compliance with the order to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.”
Jesse Sandusky, Media Relations Officer with the Alachua Police Department, said, “As we have with the previous emergency orders issued by the County, we will respond to any complaints from citizens regarding non-compliance of issued emergency orders. While law enforcement action is authorized by State Statute in reference to enforcement of any emergency order, the Alachua Police Department knows that warnings and education are the first and best ways to gain voluntary compliance. Law enforcement action, meaning the filing of charges, would only be used once any and all other methods of gaining compliance have been exhausted.”
I went to the Home Depot on 441 today. Fairly crowded. About 50% of the customers I saw were wearing masks.