Q&A – The Impact Of Mask Mandates In South Florida

Today’s entry: Brian, I do my best to follow everything, but it’s hard to keep it all straight. I thought that Governor DeSantis banned fines/penalties for going mask-free? Please clarify.

Bottom Line: Today’s note follows a recent discussion of mask mandates which are still in force in South Florida. In part driven by “season” now being in full effect in South Florida and the recent news that Mar-A-Lago was warned by Palm Beach County for not mandating masks be worn during the New Year’s Eve Party. To be clear, mask mandates are still in effect in Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe, and Palm Beach Counties. What’s changed is the ability to impose fines for violators. If you doubt the implications of what could happen if you don’t wear a mask, ask Cindy Falco Dicorrado who was arrested Friday for a second time after she refused to wear a mask and then refused to leave. There are multiple ways in which mask mandates are being enforced and can impact you and your businesses.

In the earliest months of the pandemic, South Florida’s tri-county area was carved out from the rest of the state by Governor DeSantis due to our high population and the highest rate of contagion. During this time, mask mandates were imposed by all counties and fines were able to be imposed and collected by local governments. This was true at the county and municipal level. For the most part, local law enforcement was reticent to issue citations, commonly issuing warnings instead. There were exceptions. Miami Beach, for example, was aggressive in issuing citations as they wanted to send a message to visitors who accounted for most of the maskless behavior.

This all changed on September 25th. As part of Florida’s Phase 3 reopening, Governor DeSantis still allowed for local governments to issue mask mandates, however, he prevented local governments from collecting fines from individuals cited. The merits of that decision have been debated. Numerous local governments have spoken out against the ability to fine, most recently Delray Beach last week. What a few local governments have decided to do, most notably Miami Beach during the holidays, is issue citations with a promise to collect the imposed fines once the governor’s executive order is lifted. But, it remains to be seen if that’ll happen.

The biggest impact has occurred with businesses. The masks mandates in force by Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe, and Palm Beach Counties are part of the current business operation code. Despite Governor DeSantis’s order preventing individuals from currently being fined for mask violations, the same isn’t true for businesses. Businesses can be fined or even shuttered for not mandating masks inside their businesses. There have been a few high-profile examples, like The Wharf which was shut down in November, and most recently Mar-a-Lago's New Year’s Eve party which resulted in a warning, but regularly enforcement action has been taken.

What isn’t widely discussed are the COVID-19 business violation trackers. Broward and Palm Beach Counties maintain regularly updated dashboards. They track complaints, violations, and resolutions. As of Monday, Broward had 8,055 investigated complaints, 2,369 citations issued, 154 currently pending. Palm Beach County had 10,329 total complaints, 882 citations, 26 business closures.

As you can tell there’s a lot happening daily regarding business violations. We’re talking about 30 or so businesses investigated for potential violations daily during the pandemic with numerous citations issued daily. It’s interesting to note that Broward has been far more likely to cite businesses than Palm Beach County. Whether you agree or disagree with the mandates, it’s evident that the mask mandates and related COVID policies in South Florida are being taken seriously and enforced daily for individuals and especially businesses.

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Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com

Parler & Twitter: @brianmuddradio

Photo by: Getty Images

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