PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB)– After seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases the Panama City Beach City council made amendments to their emergency order mask mandate.
Initially, employees of public businesses like restaurants, retail stores and indoor amusements were required to wear masks. Customers, initially had the choice as to whether they wanted to wear one.
Thursday, the Panama City Beach City Council has now made the choice to mandate that citizens aged six and up who are entering those businesses must also wear a mask.
“If we’re going to ask the employees to protect the patrons, I think it’s in line to have the patrons protect the employees as well,” said Councilmember Michael Jarman.
Those who have a pre-existing condition or disability will be exempt from the mandate. Gyms will also not be required to enforce the mandate if proper social distancing guidelines are followed.
The mandate will be enforced by the Panama City Beach Police and Code enforcement officers. The initial offense results in a warning, but repeated offenses could reach as high as $100 in fines.
Panama City Beach Police Chief Drew Whitman said the force will be focusing primarily on educating those about the importance of wearing a mask.
“We’re gonna educate first, and hopefully people will comply. It’s something that’s going on in several different states so it’s not new to people,” said Whitman.
Whitman also encouraged residents to use non-emergency lines when reporting mask-wearing violations to ensure officers are not overwhelmed.
The city will also be ordering a shipment of 20,000 masks for businesses who may need them and signage to educate community members about stopping the spread of COVID-19.