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Palm Coast Monday, May 3, 2021 8 months ago

Flagler County rescinds mask requirement

The county's decision follows a similar move by the city of Palm Coast.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

Flagler County no longer has a mask mandate. That applies to county government buildings, including the Government Services Building, the library and the Health and Human Services office.

County commissioners at their May 3 board meeting decided to rescind the county's mask requirement, effective immediately, after seeking input from Flagler County Emergency Management Director Jonathan Lord.

"COVID isn't over, but this is what you need to do: Get your vaccine."

JONATHAN LORD, Emergency Management director

"We’ve gotten to that point where the emergency side of government can step back, and let the health department run with it," Lord said. He pointed out that 54% of Flagler residents ages 16 and up are vaccinated and that vaccines are widely available throughout the county. 

Lord also noted that just minutes earlier, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order that invalidates local mask mandates anyway, although businesses and schools can still require masks or other screening protocols as they see fit. (Businesses and schools are not, however, allowed to require proof of vaccinations for customers.)

"My recommendation is to repeal or rescind that resolution because it no longer applies to today's world," Lord said.

The city of Palm Coast also announced, on April 27, that it was lifting the requirement for masks at city facilities. The citywide mask mandate will be discussed at the May 4 meeting. 

Gretchen Smith, representing the Department of Health in Flagler County, cautioned that the pandemic isn't over yet, with about a dozen people hospitalized with COVID-19. 

"If people feel nervous about not wearing masks, it’s time to get vaccinated," she said.

Lord agreed, saying, "COVID isn't over, but this is what you need to do: Get your vaccine."

Commissioners praised Lord and his staff for helping to manage the response to the pandemic.

Rescinding the mask mandate "sends a message to the community: It's time to start doing things again," Commissioner Joe Mullins said.

"I think people in the United States have the brain power to decide whether they want to wear a mask or not, or go to a football game or not," said Commissioner Greg Hansen. With a high recovery rate for COVID-19, "it's not something to be afraid of," he added.

Commissioner Dave Sullivan joined the board in the 5-0 vote, adding that removing the mask mandate was a reward for the community's success in battling the virus.

"It gives people who had the vaccine some feeling that, 'I did the right thing, and therefore I don't need to wear a mask,'" Sullivan said. "It may encourage people who haven't had the vaccine to get it because there was a benefit."

The county's mask requirement had prompted opposition from the start from anti-maskers who showed up maskless, violating the rule, at County Commission meetings to repeat debunked anti-mask talking points calling masks useless or dangerous.

The county increased the number of deputies at its commission meetings, while the city of Palm Coast, after a series of confrontations with anti-mask residents, hired a security guard to staff the entry area at City Hall. 

The county halted mandatory temperature checks at county buildings in March once the county's vaccination rate exceeded 25% of the population and after consulting with county Emergency Management Director Jonathan Lord, who said only three people had been flagged for temperature at the Government Services Building in the previous year. 

Brian McMillan contributed to this story.




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