One Florida Sheriff is now prohibiting deputies and other employees in his office from wearing face masks, even as COVID-19 cases in his state continue to rise

Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods enacted the order on Tuesday, which also prevents any visitors from wearing a mask. "My order will stand as is when you are on-duty/working as my employee and representing my Office – masks will not be worn," Wood wrote in an email to his department on Aug. 11, according to the Ocala Star-Banner.

Choosing not to wear a face mask, despite advice from health officials and the CDC, is dumb enough. But forcing your employees and visitors not to wear masks puts people at unnecessary risk. In his email, Woods claimed that there are professionals on both sides of the argument, which is a misleading characterization on the science behind masks. This isn't a controversial issue elsewhere in the world, where cases are much lower than the U.S. 

"This is no longer a debate nor is it up for discussion. Please keep in mind this entire pandemic is fluid and constantly changing the way things are done,” he wrote. “However, my orders will be followed or my actions will be swift to address."

Woods announced the ban on the same day Florida hit a single-day record for coronavirus-related deaths, with 277 new deaths statewide on Tuesday according to the Tampa Bay Times. There were 13 deaths recorded in Marion County. 

There are a few exceptions to Woods' ban, including officers who are working at the courthouse, the jail, in public schools, in hospitals, or who are interacting with people who have COVID-19. However, anyone working special events is not allowed to wear a mask.  

“As for special details and/or any special events (paid or not), masks will not be worn. Effective immediately the entity that has requested and has hired a deputy for a special detail will be given clear instruction by Darian Tucker at the time of their written request that masks will not be worn (unless one of the exceptions above applies). In addition, if you are the special detail deputy you will again advise the contact person that a mask will not be worn by you,” Woods wrote.

Florida does not have a state-wide mask order. According to the New York Times, the state has had over 550,000 coronavirus cases and 8,764 deaths.

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