Cape Council calls special meeting on masks
With COVID-19 case numbers climbing across the state, the Cape Coral City Council will consider a controversial measure as a way to slow down the spread.
At a special meeting to be held Thursday at 2:30 p.m. in Council Chambers, Council will decide whether to enact an emergency ordinance that would mandate face covering in certain circumstances.
The ordinance was brought forward by Mayor Joe Coviello, who said he is looking for a way to protect residents while in public without crippling the economy with another lockdown.
The ordinance would require that people wear a face covering, such as a mask, while in a business establishment.
Exceptions include children under age 6, those with breathing issues, people exercising while social distancing, restaurant patrons while eating or drinking, and first responders, who are governed by their respective agencies.
Businesses would be required to post a sign signifying that a mask is required. Violation of the ordinance would be a non-criminal infraction, and the violator could receive a citation. The first offense would be a $50 fine, second $100 and subsequent offenses $250.
Councilmember John Carioscia said the ordinance makes sense, but said it seemed a little too “zero-tolerance” for his liking, and that businesses themselves should be included.
“I’m leaning more toward education and possibly mandating businesses to wear masks,” Carioscia said. “They wanted the ordinance to start somewhere, and that was how we started it in the past on ordinances to be worked on.”
Council members will discuss their thoughts on what the final ordinance should contain.
Carioscia said he would focus on indoor businesses, such as Publix, Walmart and other such places.
“All customers and employees would have to wear a mask. We do it in the city with employees who deal with the public,” Carioscia said. “It’s a good idea. No shoes, no shirt, no mask, no service.”
Carioscia said he doesn’t expect much pushback and that common sense will prevail, though there is always a small group of people who may complain no matter what.
“You may see on the news the screaming meemies running around about the mask or a guy fighting about it, but that’s such a rare exception,” Carioscia said.
Infections have spiked in the past several weeks, with the state reaching its high point of 9,585 new cases Saturday, according to data from the Center of Disease Control.
As of Tuesday morning, there were 146,341 confirmed cases statewide, with 3,447 deaths. In Lee County, there were 5,363 confirmed cases, with 156 deaths, according to the CDC. Nationally, deaths were at 128,103, with more than 2.6 million confirmed cases.
Cape Coral City Council is not the only local entity to address restrictions as the number of coronavirus number climb.
The Town of Fort Myers Beach Council has called a special meeting in the town hall chambers for 1 p.m. on Wednesday to discuss possible safety measures for the Fourth of July weekend.
That special meeting was called by Mayor Ray Murphy after a week in which the number of positive COVID-19 cases went up 46% in Lee County and throughout the state.
On Fort Myers Beach, the number of cases grew over the past week from 20 to 29, a 45% increase.
Murphy said he decided to call the special meeting following actions on Tuesday by neighboring Collier County to limit its beach access to the morning and evening hours.
In a special meeting on Tuesday, the Sanibel City Council voted to close off city beach parking from July 3 through July 6 and to require face coverings in certain public places.
“Something has to be done,” Murphy said. “At a minimum, we have to talk about this.” The Lee County Board of County Commissioners have not yet taken any action to close its beach access points in the town.
“Florida is the epicenter of the pandemic,” Murphy said. “We’ve taken the title from New York.”
With southern Florida counties either fully or partially closing their beaches for the weekend, Murphy is concerned that Lee County and Fort Myers Beach will be the most logical stopping place for those seeking to hit the beach.
“If you were on the east coast of Florida and you want to hit a beach on the Fourth of July weekend where would you go?”
Murphy said the coronavirus threat is “a hell of a lot worse than when we closed down spring break.”
The Sanibel City Council action included a the mandatory face covering requirement in addition to the temporary closure of all city-owned and -operated, paid beach parking.
The council voted 3-1 at its special meeting Tuesday to require masks or face coverings effective July 3 at 12:01 a.m. Exclusions include places of worship, on beaches, on the Shared Use Path and such.
It also voted 3-1 to close its paid beach parking from July 3 at 12:01 a.m. to July 6 at 11:59 p.m. An exception was made for holders of A and A/C parking stickers utilizing the Sanibel Boat Ramp.