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Face coverings required for everyone inside businesses in Panama City Beach starting Monday

Published: Jul. 23, 2020 at 5:15 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) -

Panama City Beach city leaders said it wasn’t an easy decision.

“[The] bottom line is for our safety, for our citizens and visitors alike. [It was] not a popular decision, it’s one I feel like we had to do,” Panama City Beach City Councilman Phil Chester said.

Thursday, leaders approved an emergency ordinance requiring customers to wear face coverings inside businesses within city limits; a decision they said comes from many tough conversations.

“The numbers are not going down. they’re not even flattening. The curve is not flattening,” Chester said.

“What we have to look at is the hospital case count. That’s the number we look at. I look at how many people are in the hospitals each day and that’s why I moved forward with taking a position and taking a stand,” Panama City Beach Mayor Mark Sheldon said.

The new rule goes into effect Monday, July 27 at 5 p.m. to give local businesses time to get masks if they need and hang proper signage.

City leaders said the emergency ordinance applies to hotel lobbies, retail, indoor amusement, and restaurants.

“You wear it when you walk into the restaurant and you remove it when you sit down to eat,” Chester said.

They also said it does not apply to gyms as long as people are social distancing.

However, officials say the ordinance still applies to gyms as a business.

Businesses also have the right to refuse service to anyone who is not wearing a mask.

According to the ordinance, there are several tiers of penalties for those who do not comply but officials said their main goal is to educate first.

“As far as citations, the city did not want to put an undue burden on the visitors and our local citizens. The fines are a little smaller... we want to educate everyone to wear it,” Chester said.

Some exemptions to wearing a face covering include people with disabilities, those inside a hotel or a vacation rental, and employees working behind a plexiglass barrier.

The face covering mandate will be revisited at the next city council meeting on August 13.

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