(The Center Square) – Miami-Dade County and Jacksonville, where the Republican National Convention kicks off next month, are among the latest Florida governments to adopt mandatory mask orders.
With new COVID-19 cases skyrocketing statewide – more than 10,000 additional diagnoses reported Thursday for a single-day record – Florida municipalities are closing beaches, parks and more than 70 are requiring face masks to be worn in public this Fourth of July weekend.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has eschewed imposing a statewide mask order despite calls from Democrats to do so, but he said he will not preempt local governments from doing so.
Many of Florida’s 420-plus municipalities are imposing their own restrictions.
Miami-Dade County on Wednesday announced masks must be worn in public and increased restrictions on restaurants and hotels to scale back gatherings this July 4 weekend.
“After consulting with the CEOs of south Florida hospitals and Florida Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Mary Mayhew this afternoon, I have decided to issue an emergency order requiring masks in all public spaces inside and outdoors throughout Miami-Dade County,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez said.
Jacksonville issued a mandatory mask order Monday for public indoor establishments after a spike in coronavirus cases increased demand for hospital beds, leaving only 15 percent of Duval County intensive care unit (ICU) beds open.
Mayor Lenny Curry told the Jacksonville City Council on Wednesday he was confident regional hospitals will handle increased demand and lamented having to impose the mandatory mask order.
Citing his “long record in this city of encouraging people to wear their masks,” Curry said, “now it’s mandatory.”
President Donald Trump is set to deliver his acceptance speech in August before 15,000 people in Jacksonville’s VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, the highlight of the three-day Republican National Convention expected to draw 50,000 to Jacksonville from Aug. 24-27.
Two recent polls indicated Jacksonville residents don’t want to host 50,000 Republicans, specifically Trump supporters who disdain masks. About 500 residents in an open letter urged Curry to postpone the convention or restrict attendance.
As more cities impose mandatory mask orders to control COVID-19 spread, many are drawing legal challenges.
Rep. Anthony Sabatini, R-Howey-in-the-Hills, is party to at least four lawsuits against mandatory mask orders, including one filed Thursday against St. Augustine.
Last week, the St. Augustine City Council mandated people wear masks or receive a $500 fine.
In June, Sabatini was party to lawsuits challenging mask orders in Orange, Leon and Hillsborough counties.
“If you’re part of the small but vulnerable population in Florida that probably should be wearing a mask, well then, obviously, consider wearing a mask and social distancing,” Sabatini told Bay News 9. “In passing laws and criminalizing everyone who disagrees with you, that’s just out of control.”
Anti-Defamation League Florida urged Sabatini to stop calling mask advocates “Mask-Nazis.”
“In a recent post, Sabatini used ‘Mask-Nazis’ to refer to those who support wearing masks to prevent #COVID19. Invoking the Nazis in an attempt to delegitimize political opponents has no place in civil discourse. We call on him to retract the tweet + apologize,” ADL tweeted.
Sabatini replied with a meme of the Soup Nazi character from TV’s "Seinfeld," dismissing non-compliant customers with, “No soup for you.”