Winter Haven mask mandate goes into effect Tuesday evening

Coronavirus

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (WFLA) – City commissioners have voted unanimously Monday evening to become the second Polk County city to require face coverings inside buildings where social distancing isn’t possible.

The ordinance requires people to wear a face covering in any indoor location, besides their home, when social distancing is not possible.

Those who don’t comply will be fined $150. The ordinance will go into effect at 5 p.m. on Tuesday.

Latest data shows Polk County intensive care units near capacity and cases continually on the rise.

Polk County’s second largest city also has the county’s second highest COVID-19 case count.

“We do not want to catch the COVID, not at all,” said Linda Spetnagel, of Winter Haven.

Don and Linda Spetnagel have been wearing masks since March, citing their age and preexisting health conditions.

They received six free masks at a drive-thru distribute site in Winter Haven Monday.

“I saw what happened in New York. That’s a bad thing. That should not happen here,” said Don Spetnagel. “We knew about this. We need to get on top of this and stay on top of it.”

The city is giving away 10,000 masks at the Winter Haven Recreational and Cultural Center parking lot at 801 Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and at the Florida Citrus Building (Nora Mayo Hall) at 500 3rd Street NW from 9:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“We’ve seen a lot of participation, a lot of people coming out to make sure that they’re doing everything that they can to stay safe,” said Marissa Barnes, city of Winter Haven special event and marketing coordinator.

Last week, city commissioners directed staff to write an order requiring face coverings while indoors, outside the home, where social distancing isn’t possible.

“It isn’t that we want to take rights away from people. It’s about protecting people,” said Herr.

Herr, Winter Haven’s city manager, supports following the city of Lakeland’s lead by requiring face coverings.

“It’s about protecting people and it also about, we want to keep our business districts open. Because if we continue to have a rapid spread, it’s not going to bode well for our economy,” he said.

Herr confirmed with 8 On Your Side that, if approved, the new rule would require face coverings in enclosed areas of LEGOLAND Florida.

LEGOLAND Florida told 8 On Your Side in a statement:

Face masks or facial coverings will be required for all guests eight years of age and older inside all indoor areas and attractions at LEGOLAND® Florida Resort, in accordance with the emergency ordinance set forth by the City of Winter Haven. Inside areas include indoor rides and attractions, restrooms, changing rooms, theaters and restaurants when not actively eating. All guests eight years of age and older will be required to have a mask to enter the Park, Water Park and Hotels, and they are encouraged to bring their own facial coverings from home. LEGOLAND Florida Resort will continue to provide complimentary masks, including kid-sized masks, to guests who do not bring one from home.  Guests can learn more about all the ways LEGOLAND is making it safe on the Resort’s mobile app, or by visiting: https://www.legoland.com/florida/ways-we-are-making-it-safe-to-visit/           

LEGOLAND spokesperson

Until now, masks have been encouraged there but not required.

Polk County commissioners passed a resolution “strongly encouraging” masks but not requiring them.

County officials are preparing one million masks, ordered through the CARES Act, for distribution, 8 On Your Side has learned.

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