COCOA BEACH, Fla. – Leaders in Cocoa Beach announced on Friday that the city will no longer require the public to wear a face covering starting Monday.
A mask mandate was put into place by city officials on June 30 as cases of COVID-19 began to erupt in all parts of the Sunshine State. Now just over three months later, officials are putting an end to mask requirements while Florida continues to see a rise in cases and deaths.
This all comes after Gov. Ron DeSantis shifted Florida into phase three of reopening after a steady decline in cases.
“The Governor’s phase 3 announcement effectively negates any ability to regulate a mask ordinance and people are aware of such,” Ben Malik with the City of Cocoa Beach said. “We have no way to enforce any mask mandate, the national stores are continuing their mask requirements and it is their perogative to do so.”
Officials with the city said the new order may be reconsidered if there is a spike in cases.
“We are continuing to test for Covid 19 particles in our waste water plant which is a forward leading indicator of Covid 19 cases as the virus is found in waste prior to persons feeling any symptoms,” Malik added.
Hearth experts continue to express the importance of a face covering in public and have said that a mask may be a better defense against the virus compared to a vaccine.
“People need to continue to be vigilant as the virus is still there but the low amounts in our waste water plant and current active cases are the best metrics we have for any sort of policy making,” Malik said. “We will continue to test the waste water, if there is an uptick we can meet and make changes as needed.”
“I believe that masks are necessary in order to conduct business because our customers won’t feel safe unless others are wearing masks,” said Edmund Deleuil, Master Chef and owner of Heidi’s Jazz Club.
Deleuil said he’s spoken with other business owners in town, and many are planning to still require a mask in order to enter their establishments.
“They plan to keep it, but like I said, businesses are not the police, so if somebody digs in their heels, that’s a call that every business owner needs to make,” he said.
Malik told News 6 he is going to continue to wear his mask, as well.
“When I go to the store I’m still going to wear my mask. I don’t want anybody getting it, and God forbid I have it, and I don’t know it, and I give it to somebody else,” he said. “Again, we have zero ability to regulate it.”
The governor’s executive order doesn’t specifically address mask mandates because a statewide mask mandate was never issued. Instead, it’s been up to local governments to decide whether they’d like to require masks and in Central Florida, several of them have.
In Central Florida, Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties continue to have mask mandates in effect.
Cocoa Beach officials said while the city can longer enforce a mask mandate, private owned businesses can continue to have mask policies as they see fit.