Veto overruled, masks now required in Ocala, businesses vow not to allow deputies in without a mask


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Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods bans employees from wearing face masks

On Wednesday, the Ocala City Council overturned Mayor Kent Guinn’s veto after striking down the face mask ordinance.

The ordinance will now go into effect immediately.

Guinn made his position clear.

Guinn, said, “The burden falls on the business owner. It will be too hard to enforce”

Guinn also feels that the ordinance will lead to fights and flood 911 phone lines.

The Council also said that they do not agree with how Marion County sheriff Billy Woods has handled the COVID-19 situation and do not agree with the fact that Woods has banned his deputies from wearing masks.

Business manager Michael Esposito, said, “If customers and employees are required to wear masks in the city limits, then deputies should not be exempt. Woods is not above the law, although he thinks he is.”

Esposito is not the only business manager in Ocala who feels this way. Many others have vowed not to serve a deputy if they enter with no mask.

“If we have to, then they have to (referring to deputies),” said Maria Maldonado. ” If we have to turn away every customer who does not have a mask or be fined, then it will be across the board.”

Jose Alvarez, said, “Any sheriff or other civil servant whose salary I pay should follow the law. The sheriff says it is not up for discussion or debate. He says his employees should tell me as a business owner who must follow the ordinance that they don’t have to follow the ordinance at the order of the sheriff. Guess what? I will not allow them in my business… period, point-blank. The law is for everybody, especially civil servants.” He added, “And because no one ran against the corruption here, we cannot vote for a new sheriff for another four years.”

Reader Marc Halcomb, wrote, “Hasn’t anyone figured out yet that Wyatt Earp Woods has a complete and utter disregard for the citizenry he swore to serve. Anyone who questions him is labeled a ‘keyboard warrior.'” Halcomb went on to write, “He is an elected official, he should be open to having his decisions questioned. It is the duty and the right of every citizen to question their elected officials. To announce that there be no criticism of an elected official is unpatriotic, servile, and morally treasonable to the American public.”

Most business owners feel that Woods has put his deputies in a bad position as well as creates a bigger divide.

Alvarez, said, “It is not really the fault of the deputies, but the law is the law. If the sheriff wants to act above the law while we get fined, then this is what we have to do. As I said, it should apply to all. By the sheriff’s standards, one of his employees died out of 900 so that is okay in his book. Public servants are not exempt.”

Although the Ocala Police Department responds to call in the city limits, business owners say it is not uncommon for deputies to stroll into inner-city businesses.

“We support the deputies, but unfortunately the sheriff has created this situation. I believe it was political and he did not like the fact that the city was going to pass an ordinance. This sheriff does not like being told what to do. So he created a new rule at the last minute just to pull rank and banned his deputies from wearing masks when everyone else in the city has too,” said Maldonado.

The ordinance in part read as follows:

(i) “The Proprietor of a business establishment or lodging establishment shall ensure that every person in such a business establishment or lodging establishment wears a face covering.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, the following persons shall be exempt from the requirement to wear a face-covering set forth in section (i).

( a.) Children under the age of seven (7) years of age.

( b.) Persons who have trouble breathing due to a chronic pre-existing condition or individuals with a documented or demonstrable medical problem. It is the intent of this provision that those individuals who cannot tolerate a facial covering for a medical, sensory, or any other condition which makes it difficult for them to utilize a face covering and function in public are not required to wear one.

( c.) Public safety, fire, and other life safety and health care personnel, as their personal protective equipment requirements, will be governed by their respective agencies.

( d.) Persons exercising religious beliefs or practices conflicting with the wearing of a facial covering.

( e.) Persons physically exercising while observing at least 6 feet of distancing from another person.

( f.) Restaurant, bar, or theatre patrons while eating or drinking. It is the intent of this provision that a face covering will be worn while traversing a business establishment for ingress and egress, to use the restroom facilities, and while otherwise standing when persons are unable to maintain at least 6 feet of distancing.

( g.) Business owners, managers, and employees who are in an area of a business establishment that is not open to customers, patrons, or the public, provided that 6 feet of distance exist between the persons. This exception does not apply to employees who are present in the kitchen or other food and beverage preparation area of a business establishment.

( h.) Medical, dental, or other health care facilities or offices, as mask-wearing in those facilities, will be regulated pursuant to guidance specifically directed to those particular facilities.

( i.) Persons who are separated from any other person by means of barriers such as plastic face shields, plastic or glass barriers, or other devices that effectively prevent the transmission of the COVID-19 virus.

( j.) A person in a lodging establishment who is inside the lodging unit, including but not limited to, a hotel room, motel room, vacation rental unit, timeshare unit, or similar unit.

The Proprietor of a business establishment is required to post signage notifying all persons of the requirement to wear a face-covering set forth herein the entry door or front façade of such business establishment.”

Compliance and consequences

A Proprietor of a business establishment shall be deemed to be in compliance with the requirements of this Ordinance if such Proprietor or its employee(s) implements all of the following measures:

( a.) Posts signage about the face-covering requirement;

( b.) Announces the requirement over the business establishment or lodging establishment’s public address system, if possible;

( c.) Requires employees to wear face coverings, unless they are excepted from such requirement under subsection (4)(ii) of this Emergency Ordinance; and

( d.) Makes a “reasonable effort” to ensure guests, customers, or patrons within the business establishment wear a face covering. “Reasonable effort” shall include verbally requesting that a guest, customer, or patron wear a face covering.

Prior to the issuance of penalties as provided in subsection 5(iv) of this Emergency Ordinance, the alleged violator shall be given an opportunity to voluntarily comply with the provisions of this Emergency Ordinance. In the event voluntary compliance is not achieved, then a violation of this Emergency Ordinance, and any order issued pursuant hereto, shall be subject to the penalties as provided in subsection 5(iv) of this Emergency Ordinance, or as otherwise provided by law.

  • A violation of this Emergency Ordinance is a noncriminal infraction.
  • A violation of this Emergency Ordinance does not authorize the search or arrest of an individual.

The Proprietor of a business establishment is subject to the following penalties for the violation of this Emergency Ordinance:

( a.) For a first offense, a verbal warning that includes education about the dangers of non-compliance;

( b.) For a second offense, a written warning;

( c.) For a third and all subsequent offenses, a fine of $25.00.

( d.) All other remedies available at law or equity, including injunction, remain available to the City, even after issuance of a citation.

The ordinance is greatly frowned upon by many citizens as they feel it violates their rights. Others feel it is a waste of resources.

Guinn agrees with business owners and wants the ordinance to stop.

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