South Florida Public Officials Reinstate Mask Mandates

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With a highly contagious variant of the coronavirus causing infection numbers to spike, public officials in South Florida are again insisting on mask wearing.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said masks are again required of all employees and visitors to the county’s indoor facilities. 

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“In our buildings, everyone will be masked,” Levine Cava said during a news conference. “We are strongly recommending that everyone wear masks in large crowds or closed spaces, especially around people we do not know to be vaccinated.”

The mayor of the state’s largest county announced no mandates for businesses, but she urged them to help get their employees vaccinated and called for them to require masks.

“We have all come too far. We have all sacrificed too much in this past almost year and a half. We cannot turn back now,” Levine Cava said.

The town of Palm Beach and the city of Coral Springs also resumed mask mandates at public facilities.

In Orange County — home to Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort  the mayor went a step further and announced all 4,200 nonunion county employees will be required to get their first coronavirus vaccine shot by the end of August, and the second shot by the end of September, the Associated Press reported.

Disney World announced on its website Wednesday evening that, beginning July 30, face coverings will be required for all guests ages 2 and up while indoors and in Disney buses, the monorail and Disney Skyliner gondolas, regardless of vaccination status. Face coverings remain optional in outdoor common areas, but are required upon entering and throughout all attractions. 

“We want to keep our county and theme parks open for business,” Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said at a news conference Wednesday. “By instituting these measures, we want everyone to know [that] in Orange County, Florida, we take the coronavirus seriously.”

Levine Cava said her decision is a response to the surge in new cases and hospitalizations.

These measures from local officials stand in contrast to the position of Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has remained opposed to restrictions, mask mandates and vaccine passports.

“I think it’s very important we say, unequivocally, ‘no to lockdowns, no to school closures, no to restrictions, no to mandates,” he said Wednesday.

In fact, a state law signed in May gives DeSantis the power to invalidate local emergency measures put in place during the pandemic, including mask mandates and limitations on business operations.

The Delta variant of the coronavirus is causing infection surges across the U.S., with Florida accounting for a fifth of the nation’s new cases last week, more than any other state, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hospitals have seen admissions soar with the vast majority of the patients unvaccinated.

Florida has confirmed nearly 2.5 million coronavirus cases and more than 38,000 people have died.

Jeff Ostrowski can be reached at jostrowski@commercialobserver.com.