Florida sheriff bans deputies wearing face masks as county sets COVID-19 death record

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A Florida sheriff banned his deputies from wearing face masks on the same day that his county reported the highest number of deaths in one day across the entire US, reigniting the debate over face masks and safety in the US media.

Sheriff Billy Woods of Marion County, Florida, banned his deputies and office visitors from wearing face masks at work on August 11, according to a report by Florida-based newspaper Star-Banner.


The same day, Marion County set a one-day record for COVID-19 deaths, reporting 13 additional deaths, the Florida Department of Health said, said the Banner.

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His advice contravened the majority of health authorities globally, who have stated that wearing face masks is a critical tool in the fight against COVID-19 and that nearly everyone, infected or not, should practice wearing one in public to prevent the further spread of the virus.

“We can debate and argue all day of why and why not. The fact is, the amount of professionals that give the reason why we should, I can find the exact same amount of professionals that say why we shouldn’t. Since the beginning of this pandemic the operation of this office has not changed and no wearing of masks has been put in place,” Woods wrote in an email dated August 11 and quoted in the Banner.

US news organization CNN has also reported that the city of Ocala, located inside Marion County, had instituted mask-wearing rules for businesses, but had left government entities to decide for themselves as to whether to enforce face masks.

“Now, that ordinance exempts government entities and leaves the decision to the figure heads,” Woods wrote in the email, CNN reported. “So, as for us, my order will stand as is when you are on-duty/working as my employee and representing my Office – masks will not be worn.”

Nearly 750,000 have already died globally from the virus, while the US is the worst hit country in the world, recording over 166,000 deaths and nearly 5.2 million infections alone.

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