Lakeland commission approves mask mandate, goes into effect tonight

Polk County

LAKELAND, Fla.(WFLA) – Lakeland has been added to a growing list of Tampa Bay municipalities requiring face coverings in public areas to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are on the rise in Polk County.

“If you think I look haggard, it’s because I am because I don’t like what I’m seeing numbers-wise in Polk County,” said Dr. Joy Jackson, director of the Department of Health in Polk County.

Forty percent of the county’s total cases came in the last week, according to Dr. Jackson.

In a 5-2 vote Thursday, Lakeland city commissioners passed a face coverings resolution that goes into effect today at 5 p.m.

“If it helps protect people from dying in Lakeland, Florida, if it helps our citizenry take it a little more seriously to know that we are having real community spread right now, then I will be voting yes today,” said Commissioner Stephanie Madden.

“It’s one more tool in the arsenal against COVID,” said Commissioner Sara Roberts McCarley. “This is a moral imperative that we consider one another. I like that there is a time frame on it.”

The resolution expires August 3.

Commissioners Scott Franklin and Bill Read were the only dissenting votes.

“I’m a firm believer in personal responsibility,” said Commissioner Scott Franklin. “I cannot stand by a mandate for this. I just don’t think it’s right.”

“I think it’s going to give people a false sense of security. And that’s my biggest concern,” said Commissioner Read.

The mandate applies to anyone in an indoor location, other than a home or residence, within city limits over the age of 8 years old.

Exemptions include people observing social distancing, people for “whom a face covering would cause impairment due to an existing health condition,” people exercising, people eating or drinking and people under the age of 18 participating in youth sports.

People not wearing a mask, who are not exempt, could face a fine of up to $250.

“Our goal is not to get to the $250 fine but if someone wants to be obstinate and create an issue and they want to give themselves a $250 fine, they can,” said Mayor Bill Mutz.

Polk County Commissioner Bill Braswell told 8 On Your Side, despite Lakeland’s decision, he still does not support a countywide mandate.

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