BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — After the Panama City Beach City Council’s decision on Wednesday to require masks for businesses and employees, the debate around mask-wearing continues to divide residents.
“Never will wear one, even if they told me I had to,” said one Panama City Beach resident.
“It’s really necessary to take all due precautions,” said Sadie Parmer from Panama City.
Panama City Beach businesses will need to start following the mask mandate on Monday. Some owners said on Thursday that they think it’s an appropriate measure.
“We have to do it, we have to take precautions,” said Richard Rodriguez, owner of AutentiKa Mexican Grill.
“If it keeps everybody a little bit safer at the end of the day, we’re all about that here,” said David Giles, owner of Local Steamer Seafood.
Others business owners and employees disagree with being required to wear masks. County and City leaders say it’s an issue that has created controversy.
“There are people who send me emails every day that say they would rather go to jail than wear a mask,” said Bay County Commission Chairman Griff Griffitts.
“I’ve gotten several emails from folks that said if someone comes up to me and asks me to wear a mask and they’re not, there will be an altercation,” said Mark Sheldon, Mayor of Panama City Beach.
Some residents feel requiring masks in public is government overstep and a violation of their constitutional rights. However, one Panama City lawyer said that’s not the case.
“For those who say they’re willing to go to jail over this, then they need to be prepared to spend tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees to fight this,” said Larry Perry of Perry and Young Law Firm. “Ultimately they’re going to lose.”
Perry said the United States Constitution defends ordinances like mask mandates if there is a rational reason behind it, based on the 4th, 14th and 12th amendments. He compared it to going to the airport.
“When you go through an airport, you have to give up some of your rights,” Perry said. “You have to give up your right to be searched and there’s a rational reason behind that, it’s security purposes. The same way here, you’re giving up your rights here for mitigation of medical purposes.”
He said it’s all a matter of choice.
“If there’s some place that requires a mask and you don’t want to wear a mask then just don’t go there,” he said.
When it comes to the legality of a mask mandate, Perry said the Constitution would defend it.