Councilman Dan Allers said he wanted to address “the elephant in the room” last night at the town council meeting. That elephant was the mask mandate that’s been in place on Fort Myers Beach for over 2 months now. Lee County COVID numbers have been steadily declining without a mask mandate.
The county has been educating residents on the importance of wearing masks, social distancing and handwashing. They have not implemented any mandates.
When the Fort Myers Beach mask mandate was approved, without public comment from residents, Allers and councilman Jim Atterholt voted against. Vice Mayor Rexann Hosafros, Councilman Bill Veach and Mayor Ray Murphy voted in favor.
Last night both Hosafras and Veach said it was too early to lift the ban. Murphy, who’s picture was posted on Facebook in close proximity to others while fishing, not wearing a mask, took his argument for maintaining the mask mandate a step further. He said, he’s read the arguments that the (COVID) rates have come down in Lee County without a mask mandate. “I know all the comments that are going to be made right now and I don’t really care. So I am going to tell you, of course they came down because everyone is wearing the masks.”
Murphy also addressed comments being made on social media (although he did not specify where) that ‘you don’t need to tell the people of Fort Myers Beach to wear a mask, they know better.’ “Who says we’re telling the people of Fort Myers Beach. We had people, at the time, who were coming from the hottest spots in the country and state coming here on a continuous basis and still are. So I say keep wearing the masks. That’s what I say.”
Point of clarification. The Fort Myers Beach mask mandate is not only for visitors coming from hot spots. Residents and business employees are also required to wear masks, even outside, when social distancing is not possible. Businesses can be hit with a $500 fine if they are caught violating the mandate.
The Mayor continued. “They can call me all the names that they call me and everything else. That’s just the way I feel. The masks are working, they are working. They are keeping things down. They are keeping the people in Publix serving us every day safe, CVS, all the other stores, restaurants, they are keeping them safe. They may complain about them. It’s an inconvenience to wear them during the day, I’m sorry about that but this is a public health issue. It’s not a political issue. It’s not all this crying business on Facebook that’s out there. It’s a health issue and it’s working. Until they come up with a real solution for this virus these are the only methods we have. It’s working. You are not going to convince me otherwise.”