Verbatim from the Ocala Star Banner of Ocala, Florida. Even if you only skim it, keep reading afterward.
Sheriff Billy Woods forbids his employees and those visiting his offices to wear masks in most circumstances as Ocala wrestles with mask mandate.
As the city of Ocala wrestles with an ordinance requiring face coverings for people inside businesses, Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods told his employees they will not wear masks at work and visitors to his office can’t wear masks either.
Woods, in an email dated Aug. 11, said “my order will stand as is when you are on-duty/working as my employee and representing my Office – masks will not be worn.”
Ocala City Council passed an emergency ordinance last week requiring people to wear masks inside businesses. Mayor Kent Guinn vetoed it Monday and the council will meet Wednesday to consider overriding the veto.
Marion County set a single-day record on Tuesday for the most deaths related to COVID-19, with 13 more deaths reported.
Ocala and other municipalities in Marion County also advise officers not to wear masks while on duty so their communication to people they encounter is clear. Nationally, there is no consistent approach. Officers have been disciplined for not following state directives to wear masks, but Florida does not have a state-wide order.
Woods has made some exceptions for officers to wear masks while working at the courthouse, the jail, in public schools, in hospitals and in dealing with people suspected of being infected with COVID-19 or at high risk of complications from the disease.
“For all of these exceptions, the moment that enforcement action is to be taken and it requires you to give an individual orders/commands to comply, the mask will be immediately removed,” Woods said.
Woods said deputies who work special details or special events won’t be allowed to wear masks unless it falls under the exceptions he provided.
“As for special details and/or any special events (paid or not), masks will not be worn. Effective immediately the entity that has requested and has hired a deputy for a special detail will be given clear instruction by Darian Tucker at the time of their written request that masks will not be worn (unless one of the exceptions above applies). In addition, if you are the special detail deputy you will again advise the contact person that a mask will not be worn by you,” according to the email.
The sheriff said if anyone confronts an employee about them not wearing mask, the employee should “politely and professionally tell them I am not required to wear a mask nor will I, per the Order of the Sheriff,” and walk away.
“From that point on it will be my burden and responsibility to take care of the person and answer their problem, complaint or their question,” Woods said.
For those visiting a MCSO office, Woods said “effective immediately, any individual walking in to any one of our lobbies (which includes the main office and all district offices) that is wearing a mask will be asked to remove it.” He added, “in light of the current events when it comes to the sentiment and/or hatred toward law enforcement in our country today, this is being done to ensure there is clear communication and for identification purposes of any individual walking into a lobby.”
Woods said MCSO lobbies have barriers that protect employees and the visitors. He said “if a person does not wish to remove the mask they will be asked to leave. If the individual is not comfortable with standing and waiting in the lobby with other individuals, politely ask for their cell number and advise them to stand outside or sit in their vehicle and you will text or call them with their completed transaction.”
Woods said the decision was not easy, and pondered on it for the last two weeks.
“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,” he said.
However, public health officials at local, state and national levels consistently advise that there is clear and mounting evidence that face coverings properly used are among the best methods to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
Woods said at 900 employees, “our number of cases so far has proven that the current way we are approaching the issue is working.”
At least 36 employees at the Marion County Jail, and seven outside the jail — including patrol officers — have tested positive for COVID-19. More than 200 inmates have tested positive. An infected nurse at the jail recently died.
Woods ended with, “this is no longer a debate nor is it up for discussion. Please keep in mind this entire pandemic is fluid and constantly changing the way things are done. However, my orders will be followed or my actions will be swift to address.”
County Commissioner Carl Zalak told the Star-Banner that he supports Woods’ decision.
“I agree with the Sheriff base on his best judgment and I appreciate the way he handled it,” the commissioner said.
City Councilor Matthew Wardell, who sponsored the city’s face mask ordinance, said while the Sheriff’s Office is Woods domain, he disagrees with his stance on mask.
Ocala Police Chief Greg Graham said the department issues masks to officers but while on duty, he doesn’t expect them to wear masks because he wants their orders to be clearly understood.
Belleview Police Chief Terry Holland also said officers on duty should not wear masks so the lines of communications are clear.
Chief Mike McQuaig of Dunnellon Police Department said he doesn’t require officers to wear a mask in their calls-for-service. He too wants the officers commands to be heard clearly.
Both Holland and McQuaig said officers are given masks. McQuaig said if a store requires an off-duty officer to wear a mask, then it’s the officer’s decision on whether to wear one or not.
From The Tumalo Lookout
There are good arguments for sheriffs to not enforce wearing masks by using their power of arrest.
But to prohibit everyone in his building (jail side excepted) — employees and public alike — from wearing masks is the mark of a fool very unworthy of my respect. And in this case, a dangerous fool with a badge and a gun. My anger at this guy, my stereotype of hick sheriffs, is deep and hateful. I have to work really hard to keep my critical thinking cap on.
Billy Woods is a sheriff who is willing to force his own employees to choose between public health and safety or their job.
As well, Billy Woods is a sheriff who is willing to force the public to choose between either receiving service from their government agency, or following safe public health practices in the time of a national pandemic.
It’s also interesting to read from the Ocala news story this additional information:
The sheriff said if anyone confronts an employee about them not wearing mask, the employee should “politely and professionally tell them I am not required to wear a mask nor will I, per the Order of the Sheriff,” and walk away. [emphasis added]Ocala Star Banner, August 11, 2020
Now, note the two words I’ve emphasized in that quote: “not required.”
Those two words are intentionally misleading: Woods’ order does NOT say that his deputies and staff are “not required” to wear masks. His order stipulates (demands. requires) that they will not wear masks. As in, “shall not.” Under threat of punitive action. Read it again if you don’t believe me:
Woods, in an email dated Aug. 11, said “my order will stand as is when you are on-duty/working as my employee and representing my Office – masks will not be worn.” [emphasis added]Ocala Star Banner, August 11, 2020
And note that this instruction is an order to make a specific statement to the public: Little Woody is ordering his deputies and staff to lie to the public. For some reason, he isn’t willing to have his deputies speak honestly to the public about his order.
So, Billy Woods isn’t just a coward; he’s also a liar. He’s a coward and a liar.
And he’s ordering his employees to lie for him.
It would appear that Little Woody is yet another example of what Trumpistas call, “draining the swamp.”
Just as ignorance begets ignorance, so it eliminates integrity. By simple fiat.
And that’s Trumpistan for you.
But, then, all you have to do is take a quick look at the Coronavirus headlines from Florida to see that it’s just another southern state chock full of dangerously ignorant fools.
Here’s a headline and the first few paragraphs from the August 11 Tampa Bay Times:
The state also recorded 5,831 new infections.
Published Yesterday Updated Yesterday
Florida logged a new record for the most coronavirus deaths announced in a day with 277 on Tuesday.
Tuesday’s record brought the statewide death toll to 8,685 people, according to the Florida Department of Health. The weekly death average increased to 166 people dead per day.
And that’s Trumpistan for you, too.