INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Visitors to county buildings will be required to keep wearing face masks after county commissioners Tuesday extended the mandate to November.
Commissioners voted unanimously to extend the current law until Nov. 17, prompting groans and comments from those in the audience hoping to end the mandate.
It's a compromise between those favoring a mask mandate for everyone and those who want it to be optional, said Commissioner Bob Solari.
"I believe (the ordinance) works," he said. "I believe it's reasonable to the vast majority on both sides."
The rules originally approved July 14 require the public to wear masks inside public buildings and on public transportation. Employees of businesses serving the public are also required to wear masks.
The ordinance strongly recommends everyone wear a mask indoors when social distancing is not possible, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC also recommends frequent hand washing or use of hand sanitizer and avoiding touching one's face.
The regulations apply only in unincorporated Indian River County.
More: Indian River County to consider extending its emergency face mask order to November
County Commissioner Peter O'Bryan said he preferred a six-month extension. Data showed cases declined after the county issued its rules and stores implemented mask requirements, he said.
"The virus is still out there," O'Bryan said. Letting up now could cause a spike in the virus, he said.
"This is not a sprint," he said. "It's not over."
More: Vero Beach wants the public to wear face masks, but again refuses to required it
More than 30 people attended Tuesday's meeting, urging the commission to drop the regulations, saying COVID-19 cases have dropped low enough that it no longer is needed.
Resident Jennifer Pippin asked to make mask-wearing optional, giving people a choice based on what they are comfortable doing. People die from influenza each year, she argued, and there is a vaccine for it, but the flu returns every year.
Resident Richard Allen also opposed keeping the mask mandate in place.
"Please listen to your people out here," he said. "We're tired of this. The numbers are down."
However, mask supporters also spoke, asking to keep the rules in place. Many people stay home to avoid contact with those who do not wear masks, said resident Tess Whelan.
County staff recommended extending the ordinance as a way to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
"If we do not extend this, that can send the wrong message (that), "Hey, we're done with this,'" County Administrator Jason Brown said.
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