Local leaders say mask mandate would be difficult to enforce, residents disagree on issue


BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — With the local surge in COVID-19 cases, many residents are raising the question; will there be a mask-mandate?

As other cities around the country put mask mandates in place, local residents seem to have mixed opinions on the issue.

“I’ve never worn one, never will wear one,” said one Panama City Beach resident. “Even if they told me I had to I wouldn’t wear one.”

Others say it’s the responsible thing to do.

“It’s about us spreading it,” said Sadie Parmer from Panama City. “It’s really necessary to take all due precautions.”

From place to place, mask-wearing rules differ as well; some require them while others leave it up to personal choice. Now, residents are wondering if it will stay a choice for much longer.

“Obviously we’ve been getting a lot of inquiries about mandatory mask uses in public spaces,” said Bay County Commission Chairman Philip “Griff” Griffitts on Tuesday. He said it’s become a controversial topic.

“There are people that send me emails every day that say they would rather go to jail than wear a mask,” Griffitts said.

He added that at this time, it’s not feasible to enforce a mask mandate nor do they want to.

“We don’t want to have to be the people that make anything mandatory for our people,” he said. 

However, they’re encouraging residents to follow the CDC guidelines for mask-wearing and social-distancing.

“We simply don’t want to have to fall back and do any kind of step backwards than what we’re already doing,” Griffitts said.

On the beach, city leaders expressed similar feelings at Thursday’s city council meeting. 

“No one could enforce this and that’s the problem,” said Panama City Beach Mayor, Mark Sheldon.

He said that just because there isn’t a mandate in place doesn’t mean people shouldn’t do it.

“If you know it’s the right thing to do, just do it,” Sheldon said. “Care about your neighbor as much as you care about yourself.”

Sheldon said he’s been concerned with the polarizing nature of this issue, saying he’s received emails from people saying they’ll get in an altercation if they are asked to wear a mask.

According to a News 13 poll released on our website, as of 9:40pm on Friday there were more than 1200 responses. 70 percent of the respondents said they believe masks should be a requirement in public.

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