Florida sheriff bans deputies from wearing masks

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OCALA, FL – APRIL 20: Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods speaks during a press conference after a shooting at Forest High School on April 20, 2018 in Ocala, Florida. It was reported that a former student shot a 17-year-old male student in the ankle. The shooter, whose name has not yet been released, is in custody. (Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images)

MARION COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — A Florida sheriff told his deputies this week that they will not wear masks at work despite concerns over the coronavirus.

The Ocala-Star Banner first reported the emailed message Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods sent his employees on Tuesday. The Washington Post says the rule is also in place for people visiting the sheriff’s office.

“My order will stand as is when you are on-duty/working as my employee and representing my Office – masks will not be worn,” the email said, according to the news outlets.

The Star-Banner report says Sheriff Woods has outlined some exceptions to his rule: deputies will be allowed to wear masks in the courthouse, in the jail, in public schools, in hospitals and when dealing with someone who may have coronavirus or are high risk.

Woods told his staff their masks are to be “immediately removed” once an enforcement action requires them to give an order or command, the newspaper reports.

When deputies are working special events or special details, the Star-Banner says Woods told staff masks will not be worn unless one of the outlined exceptions applies.

“We can debate and argue all day of why and why not. The fact is, the amount of professionals that give the reason why we should, I can find the exact same amount of professionals that say why we shouldn’t,” Woods said in the email to his employees, according to the Washington Post.

The email from Woods was sent the same day that Florida broke its single-day record for reported deaths. The state health department has reported a total of 8,765 Floridians killed throughout the pandemic, as well as 133 non-resident deaths.

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