Collier Commission Extends Mandatory Mask Mandate
During an emotionally charged hours-long meeting, Thursday, Collier County Commissioners voted to extend a mandatory mask order imposed in late July, for another seven weeks until October 22.
Collier’s extended mask order applies to many businesses and public buildings in unincorporated portions of Collier County.
It includes exceptions for restaurant patrons while they are eating, and for people working out in gyms while practicing social distancing, among others. The ordinance does not apply to children under nine years old and specifically excludes places of worship.
So far Collier Code Enforcement reports 98 verified complaints about violations of the mask rule, but only five citations have actually been issued so far to just two businesses.
The 3-2 vote to extend the order was identical to the initial vote to adopt the mask ordinance on July 21 with commissioners Donna Fiala and William McDaniel maintaining their opposition to the rule.
Despite often impassioned public comment from residents who mostly oppose the mask rule, Commissioners Andy Solis and Penny Taylor and Commission Chair Burt Saunders decided to heed the advice Collier County School District Superintendent Dr. Kamela Patton, the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, and medical experts including Dr. Carlos Quintero, chief quality officer and chairman of the internal medicine department at NCH Healthcare System, and Dr. David Lindner, medical director of the COVID-19 response team at NCH, who all urged the commission to extend the mask mandate.
President of the Collier County Medical Society Dr. Rebekah Bernard, was among the medical experts who spoke in favor of the order. Bernard recommended extending the ordinance for three months.
“Studies have shown that universal masking has declined the rates of COVID-19 positivity and that states that have enacted mask mandates have seen a decrease in COVID,” said Dr. Bernard.
“JAMA just produced a study a few weeks ago that said there was an ethical justification for the mandate of face coverings to prevent the transmission of serious disease to the community.”
Members of the audience began to shout over Dr. Bernard as she addressed misconceptions about the dangers of wearing a mask.
“Here’s the truth everyone: Masks will not lower your oxygen levels. They will not raise your carbon dioxide levels. It’s just not a fact. They will not make you sicker because you are rebreathing your own germs. That is untrue and they will not weaken your immune system and make it harder for you to fight disease.”
Outbursts from the public caused delays throughout the more than four-hour long meeting, and became especially volatile just before commissioners took a vote.
At the beginning of Thursday's meeting, commissioners also voted to allow the county attorney to hire outside council to represent the three commissioners being sued by businessman and mask critic Alfie Oakes, who is also suing the county, arguing that the mandate is unconstitutional.
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