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It’s a ‘joke’: Lakeland commissioners opt for resolution over mask mandate

Polk County

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Instead of a mask mandate, Lakeland city commissioners are expected to approve a resolution Tuesday afternoon to recommend people socially distance and businesses require masks, in the “strongest possible terms.”

“After looking at most of the things written on Facebook this weekend, it was a joke. Laughed at or it was a joke, the counties around us were just so shocked that Lakeland wasn’t doing more,” said Heather Jackson, who lives in Lakeland.

Jackson has been curating a list of 300 businesses in and around Lakeland that require masks for her Facebook group, “Lakeland Business – Operation Face Mask.”

It has 2,000 members.

She would prefer her page become unnecessary with a citywide mandate, which was in place in the summer but expired in October.

“It’s not enough. Obviously our numbers are going up. Things have not changed. I think people are getting more and more lax,” said Jackson.

At an emergency meeting held last week, city commissioners were briefed by local health leaders about the growing threat of COVID-19 in the community.

Case numbers and hospitalizations have never been higher, they said.

Interim commissioner Don Selvage, who is temporarily filling Rep. Scott Franklin’s vacated seat, wanted a 100-day mask mandate.

“I think we’ve reached the point where cheerleading is not enough. This is a crisis,” he said.

Mayor Bill Mutz had long said he would propose another mask mandate if the percent positivity rate, the percentage of tests that come back positive, exceeded 10% for fourteen days.

The percent positivity rate has averaged over 15% for weeks, according to the resolution agreed upon by commissioners.

“The mandate won’t pass at this point. Having done a resolution, having not had the response that we hoped people would have, it makes it an easy pathway towards a mandate,” said Mayor Mutz.

Polk County commissioners have never considered a mask mandate.

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