By Mike S Payton, Contributing Reporter
DELRAY BEACH, FLORIDA – Yesterday, June 23rd, the Palm Beach County Commissioners voted unanimously to mandate masks, and now the City of Delray Beach will follow the order as defined. The action was in response to the surging numbers of COVID-19 cases since the Phase 1 reopening, and particularly over the last week.
The order applies inside all buildings and outdoors when social distancing is not possible. Exempted are persons age two and under and individuals with respiratory conditions that preclude the use of a mask.
Shelly Petrolia, Mayor for the City of Delray Beach, said this morning, “I am pleased with the County Commission’s decision to mandate masks countywide. It is both a responsible and reasonable response to the sharp rise in COVID-19 cases.”
She explained that the City of Delray Beach was the only city to mandate masks during the Stay Home order. The City lifted that mandate once Phase 1 opening was underway, determining enforcement would prove to be too difficult as the sole municipality in the County requiring masks.
Petrolia explained, “A countywide mandate will make enforcement easier and send a clear and consistent message that masks must be worn in every municipality in Palm Beach County.”
Businesses in Delray Beach had been complying with the CDC guidelines through the Phase 1 reopening to varying degrees, some investing in social distancing and protective barriers other disinfecting protocols. However many were not, as a drive down Atlantic Avenue reveals.
Delray Beach Police Chief Javaro Sims said of the new mask order, “Some of the challenges that we have are cooperation and enforcement. I think if both of those are working together, it will minimize any issues that may potentially occur. That’s why we continue to educate as much as we possibly can. Education over enforcement first.”
Stephanie Immelman, President and CEO at the Greater Delray Chamber of Commerce said of the new mask mandate, “I’m delighted by the decision and I think businesses are as well.”
Adding, “Front line workers now have a county mandate requiring masks which makes it easier for them to address the issue with customers. And of course, this will help to get our contagion numbers down which is what everyone wants.”
However there is a strong vocal contingent of residents opposed to wearing face covering, convinced it does not help and may even be harmful. Despite the leading medical expert’s advice and CDC guidelines, this group appears unmoved and determined to not comply.
Dr. Alina Alonso, director of the Florida Department of Health, explained yesterday to the County, “no one’s trying to hurt anybody and everybody has their individual rights, nobody believes in individual rights more than I. However, this is about the public, this is what you’re doing to other people, and what you’re not doing to other people.”
“I wear my mask to protect you, you wear your mask to protect me. So, that’s the whole intent behind this. And I believe that there’s no room here for politics, there’s only room to fight the only enemy that we have here, the virus, not each other.”
Still, Immelman from the Chamber admitted, “Compliance will be the most challenging because there is a thread of resistance to this simple measure.” But added, “No business wants to go into lockdown again and until we contain the spread there is always a chance of that happening.”
She said, “If customers really care about their local businesses and keeping them open, then wearing a mask is a simple way to show support for your neighbors.”
Chief Sims said, “There’s a joint and collaborative effort countywide, inclusive of all municipalities working together, to address and educate all the residents here in the county on the restrictions that have been issued from the governor to the county commission.”
Adding, “First and foremost, we’re going to continue to try and educate as much as we possibly can. But we do have enforcement measures in place for those who are unwilling to cooperate.”
As in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, not following the mask requirement is violating an emergency order, meaning a person could be fined up to $500 and spend up to sixty days in jail.