LAKE WALES – City commissioners approved a mandatory face coverings ordinance Tuesday night, but amended the local law to remove enforcement burdens placed on local businesses.
The commission vote was 3-2 with Mayor Eugene Fultz, Robin Gibson and Terrye Howell in favor of the measure.
Commissioners Curtis Gibson and Al Goldstein voted against it, indicating that a resolution encouraging face masks being used in the city – passed on July 7 – was working, and that the measure would hurt local businesses, even with the enforcement provisions taken out.
“I just hope I’m wrong, that we’re not going to lose some business here in the city,” Goldstein said. “We have great merchants, and I think we put a burden on them with this mandate. But I’m only one vote,” he said.
“I hear the cry of the people on both sides, but most importantly I hear the cry of Lake Wales business owners. They’re taking a big impact,” Curtis Gibson added.
Robin Gibson said he believes the measure isn’t as restrictive as many think.
“I think it’s important to realize that this doesn’t say that you have to have a mask,” he noted. “Number one, if you’re outside you don’t have to have a mask and even inside you don’t have to wear a mask. It’s just if you can’t maintain that six foot distance that transmits the virus”
Howell was appreciative of the ordinance being tweaked.
“I like the amendment. It’s something that I was hoping for earlier,” she said. “It’s giving our business people a chance to do the right thing for our citizens. If you don’t like what they’re doing, you don’t have to show up. (And) I like that we are still trying to protect our citizens, because this is one of the things we’re supposed to do.”
The ordinance can be repealed upon a first and second reading and majority vote of the commission at any time. An emergency ordinance, which needed just one public reading and four votes to pass, and would only have been in effect for a 30-day period, failed on a similar 3-2 vote at the commission’s meeting of August 4.