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Palm Coast Tuesday, May 4, 2021 6 days ago

Palm Coast tosses out its mask requirement

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Mayor Milissa Holland encourages residents to get vaccinated to 'show your unified support for your neighbors.'
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

Around Palm Coast, many businesses' entrances bear signs stating that masks are required to comply with local a local government mandate. That mandate is no more.

Palm Coast's City Council members, acting in accordance with the advice of local health officials, voted 5-0 to rescind the city's mask requirement during a May 4 City Council meeting. Councilman Eddie Branquinho ceremoniously threw his mask over his shoulder — twice — to celebrate.

"I want to thank the residents," Mayor Milissa Holland said. "You have done an extraordinary job at coming together, heeding the warnings, staying safe, keeping your neighbors safe, and complying with what’s been requested."

She also encouraged residents to get vaccinated. "It's a great way to show your unified support for your neighbors."

The council had adopted its mask requirement through a resolution in July 2020, requiring that masks be worn in indoor environments aside from homes. The measure, passed with a 5-0 vote, encouraged businesses to require masks and included exemptions for people observing social distancing, children under 2 and people who couldn't cover their face for health reasons.

Technically, it was not enforceable: The resolution didn't include an enforcement measure, and the county sheriff, Rick Staly, had said he didn't think it would be appropriate for his deputies to enforce a mask requirement. Businesses, though, could order an unmasked person to leave, and have them trespassed from the property if they refused. 

The council's decision on May 4 to rescind the mask mandate followed an earlier, April 27, move to lift the requirement for masks in city government buildings. That requirement had drawn confrontations with anti-mask residents, prompting the city to hire a security guard for City Hall.

"If you feel that being asked to wear a piece of cloth is repression, it’s an opportunity to look back and realize that you haven't been that repressed in your life."

NICK KLUFAS, City Council

Among the public comments during the May 4 meeting was one that urged the City Council to never impose a mask mandate again, comparing it to fascism.

As some in the crowd cheered and others booed, Councilman Nick Klufas spoke up.

"If you feel that being asked to wear a piece of cloth is repression, it’s an opportunity to look back and realize that you haven't been that repressed in your life," he said. 

The city's revocation of the mask requirement in city facilities was informed by advice from the city's Emergency Management Team and the Florida Department of Health in Flagler County, Mayor Milissa Holland said. Gov. Ron DeSantis this week also signed an executive order to invalidate local governmental mask mandates.

— Brian McMillan contributed to this story.

 

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