PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB)– At the city council meeting on Thursday, the Panama City Beach City Council voted to extend their mask mandate one final time, with it officially ending on September 8th at 12:01 a.m.
City officials said the decision comes after seeing a downward trend in data that proves the city is moving in the right direction toward stopping the spread of the virus.
“We are still getting cases, but they’re lower than they were a few weeks ago,” City Manager, Tony O’Rourke said.
The council also acknowledged that other neighboring counties with no mask mandate are also seeing a downward trend.
“Escambia, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa are all counties without a mask mandate that still have the same downward trend that we see,” Councilman Geoff McConnell said.
Some residents said they were ready to do away with the mask mandate.
“I believe it should be left up to individuals, and not have a government body mandating whether they should wear it or not,” said one resident.
Local researchers also made their case to the council in support of the mandate.
“This is not a partisan matter, this is a matter of science and data,” explained Amanda Currie, Director of Clinical at Emerald Coast Research Associates.
She went on to site data from the Institute of Health Metrics based out of the University of Washington.
“If we stay at the track that we are presently on by the first of December, Florida will actually be at about 22,000 deaths. This is with a universal mask mandate in place, if we don’t have a mask mandate in place across the state, they estimate their could be 35,000 deaths,” Currie said.
The council uniformly agreed that they will continue to let data drive their decisions.
“Some have begun to feel that this is turning into a perpetual thing, and so putting an end date solidifies that this is when it is going to stop. This is barring any significant changes in data,” Councilman Jarman said.
The council expressed they will continue to look at COVID-19 daily, and if their is a significant increase in case numbers and hospitalizations, they may once again reinstate a new mask mandate.