Sheriff Bans Staff, Office Visitors from Wearing Masks


A Florida sheriff has prohibited his deputies and visitors from wearing face masks in his office.

In an email sent to his staff, Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods wrote that no one in the office will be allowed to wear a face mask, WCJB-TV reported.

“Since the beginning of this pandemic the operation of this office has not changed and no wearing of masks has been put in place,” Woods 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.”

Deputies are allowed to wear masks at the county courthouse, the jail, private and public schools that require masks, hospitals and nursing homes and when responding to a call that involved a high-risk elderly person.

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“For all of these exceptions, the moment that enforcement action is to be taken and it requires you to give an individual orders/commands to comply, the mask will be immediately removed,” Woods wrote, according to the Ocala Star-Banner.

The sheriff added that if someone confronts an employee about not wearing a mask, the employee should “politely and professionally tell them I am not required to wear a mask nor will I, per the Order of the Sheriff,” and walk away.

The state of Florida has recorded over 542,000 cases of coronavirus and 8,600 deaths from the virus, according to The Washington Post.

Marion County also set a record for daily COVID-19 deaths Tuesday with 13 deaths.

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Guests will also be asked to remove their masks when entering the MCSO lobby.

“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 2 weeks,” Woods wrote.

“This is no longer a debate nor is it up for discussion.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that people should wear masks in public settings when around people they do not live with where they are unable to maintain other social distancing measures.

“Masks are most likely to reduce the spread of COVID-19 when they are widely used by people in public settings,” the CDC said.

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Woods said he made the decision because of current events, like the anti-police protests sparked by the death of George Floyd.

“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 wrote.

“Please keep in mind this entire pandemic is fluid and constantly changing the way things are done. However, my orders will be followed or my actions will be swift to address.”

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Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. A University of Oregon graduate, Erin has conducted research in data journalism and contributed to various publications as a writer and editor.
Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. She grew up in San Diego, California, proceeding to attend the University of Oregon and graduate with honors holding a degree in journalism. During her time in Oregon, Erin was an associate editor for Ethos Magazine and a freelance writer for Eugene Magazine. She has conducted research in data journalism, which has been published in the book “Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future.” Erin is an avid runner with a heart for encouraging young girls and has served as a coach for the organization Girls on the Run. As a writer and editor, Erin strives to promote social dialogue and tell the story of those around her.
Tucson, Arizona
Graduated with Honors
Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, University of Oregon
Books Written
Contributor for Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future
Prescott, Arizona
Languages Spoken
English, French
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Health, Entertainment, Faith