A mask ordinance is not expected for Walton County

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WALTON COUNTY Fla. (WMBB) — Commissioners are trying to protect residents while lowering positive COVID-19 tests, all while the county’s ICU beds near capacity.

So far there are only two cases are COVID-19 related in Walton County ICU beds.

But protective measures, like a mandatory mask ordinance, are still controversial.

Two weeks ago, a Walton County resident requested commissioners consider a mandatory mask ordinance.

In the last two weeks, the county has seen a 2.5% jump in the number of positive COVID-19 test results.

“1066 positives,” said Florida Health Department’s Holly Holt. “This gives us a percent rate of 12%.”

A mandatory mask ordinance was not on Tuesday’s meeting agenda. But it was still discussed.

“I am not anti-mask,” said resident Joey Lassalle. “I am anti mandate”

The majority of the speakers were opposed.

“We do not agree with a mask mandate,” said resident Tabatha Howard.

Howard said nobody she knew would comply with the ordinance.

“To not have the freedoms to breathe fresh air is breaking the most basic principles of our civil liberties,” said resident Mallory Fields. 

But not all are against it.

“It is one of the only ways we currently have to help slow the spread of the virus,” said Seaside Executive Director of Communications. “Allowing us to keep businesses open, people at work, and the economy running.”

South Walton restaurant owner Dave Rauschkolb said some of his employees have tested positive, but he does not believe those were transmitted within his restaurant.

“The COVID cases that we have had, nearly all of them, the transmission has occurred outside of the restaurants,” said Rauschkolb. “And we have isolated those folks, they have come back negative and they have come back to work. But we haven’t had outbreaks because I believe we have had folks wear masks.”

A powerful member of the medical community had also weighed-in.

“We are testing patients that are asymptomatic that have the virus, so they are out in the community without knowing that they are infecting folks,” said CEO and regional President of Ascension Sacred Heart. “So they need to wear a mask.”

 In the end, commissioners took no action.

“This was not a planned vote on an ordinance, there was not a request to do anything,” said Public Information Manager Louis Svehla said. “And at this meeting, there was not a motion made by the commission either way.”

Commissioners did extend the local state of emergency, limiting social gatherings to no more than 50 people, although the state surgeon general is recommending 10.

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