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Walton County residents ask commissioners to consider mask ordinance

Published: Jul. 14, 2020 at 11:01 PM CDT
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WALTON COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Walton County locals asked the Board of County Commissioners to take action in response to the recent spike in COVID-19 cases.

“We need your leadership, you’ve been chosen to lead this county, and it’s your leadership that will change things now for us, not when we have many more deaths,” said Kerri Parker, who works for Seaside.

“There is precedent for this kind of action that limits individual freedom, we’re forcing people to wear a seat belt in a car, forcing them not to smoke indoors,” said Micah Davis, a Walton County resident.

Tuesday, the Department of Health in Walton County reported the county has had 622 positive coronavirus cases, which it says is up by 434 cases since the last commission meeting two weeks ago.

Officials with the Department of Health say they’re encouraging people to wear masks.

“We’re following the guidance from the CDC, a lot of that deals with if you can’t stay socially distant with an individual, that we do encourage you to wear a face mask,” said Holly Holt, Florida Department of Health in Walton County.

At Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners decided not to take action until they get more information about whether it’s legal to enact a mask ordinance.

“There’s nothing wrong with coming in there now with ‘no shoes, no shirt, no mask, you’re not coming in’ but, I have a concern with enforcement,” said Bill Chapman, chairman, Walton County Commission.

Samantha Herring requested the action be taken at the meeting. She says the pandemic is too urgent for commissioners to delay any further.

But other locals say requiring masks is government overreach.

“Are we going to mandate that half the population that doesn’t want to wear a mask has to wear a mask, that’s taking away freedoms from a lot of people, and at the end of the day, you have to enforce it,” said Matt Christopher.

Some businesses, including those in Seaside, have already asked people to wear masks when they enter.

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