Florida sheriff forbids deputies, visitors from wearing face masks

Florida sheriff forbids deputies, visitors from wearing face masks
Sheriff Bill Woods is refusing to let deputies or visitors wear face masks while at the Marion County Sheriff's Office in Florida. (Source: Marion County Sheriff's Office)

OCALA, Fla. (KOLD News 13) - A sheriff in Florida is forbidding his deputies or visitors from wearing face masks while at the office.

According to WCJB, Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods made the announcement in an email to staff.

“Since the beginning of this pandemic the operation of this office has not changed and no wearing of masks has been put in place,” Wood wrote. “With just at 900 employees, our number of cases so far has proven that the current way we are approaching the issue is working.”

There are exceptions to Woods’ rule, like having to wear masks at a courthouse, jail, school, nursing home, home/business where there is a known COVID-19 alert or responding to a call about a high-risk person.

Marion County is in north central Florida and has a population of just over 365,000.

Sheriff Woods said if anyone on his staff is confronted about not wearing a mask, they are to respond, “I am not required to wear a mask nor will I, per the Order of the Sheriff” before walking away.

Visitors to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office or one of its offices are also required to remove their masks.

“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.

If a visitor does not want to remove their mask, they will be asked to leave. If they do not want to wait in the lobby, staff will take the person’s cell phone number so they can wait outside.

“Now, I can already hear the whining and just so you know I did not make this decision easily and I have weighed it out for the past two weeks,” Woods said. “This is no longer a debate nor is it up for discussion.”

Sheriff Woods said while there are a number of medical professionals advocating wearing masks, he can “find the exact same amount of professionals that say why we shouldn’t.”

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