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Health officials ask BOCC for mask mandate

By Staff | Aug 11, 2020

Brian Hamman

Members of the Lee Health Facility Medical Executive Committee recently sent a letter to the Lee County Board of County Commissioners requesting a countywide mask mandate “in public places and inside businesses where social distancing is not always feasible.”

Sent by committee presidents of Lee Memorial, Health Park Medical Center, Cape Coral Hospital, Gulf Coast Medical Center, Golisano Children’s Hospital and Physician Leadership Council, the letter calls for Lee to join other counties throughout the state to regulate the wearing of a mask or face covering.

“We request you mandate masks be worn in public places and inside businesses where social distancing is not always feasible,” states the July 24 letter sent to BOCC Chair Brian Hamman and the other commissioners. “Masks protect not just the wearer but everyone around them. We believe this is crucial to public health, will save lives, and is a necessary step to maintain our current phase of reopening and continued economic recovery.”

The committee called mask wearing a “crucial” part of the “Three W’s to ward off COVID-19” – that include wearing a mask, washing your hands and watching your distance. They also pointed to many national retail chains that have mandated such requirements in their stores.

“Understanding that social distancing is not always guaranteed, wearing a mask becomes essential in public settings,” wrote the committee. “As you are likely aware, multiple retailers and grocers including Aldi, Costco, CVS, Home Depot, Lowes, Winn Dixie, Publix, Walmart, Starbucks, and Target are mandating masks to protect both their employees and customers. They have emerged as leaders on a national stage.”

In the letter, health officials cited CDC information that regards Florida as one of the “nation’s leaders in newly-diagnosed COVID cases” and identified Lee County as a “hot spot.”

“All of our Intensive Care Units are either at or near full capacity,” the letter continued. “The rapid rise in cases is placing strains on our system’s supplies, staffing, and space to provide care not only to those with COVID but to all those who depend on Lee Health for care. It is time that we join the multiple other counties in Florida such as Collier, Duval, Hillsborough, Leon, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Nassau, Orange, Osceola, Pasco, Pinellas, St. Lucie, and Seminole that have acknowledged the social responsibility which necessitates mandating masks during this public health crisis.”

Hamman confirmed that he had received the letter and he thanked Lee Health employees for their service to the county and their partnership through the pandemic. On implementing a mask mandate in the county, Hamman said he has trust in education and believes residents will do the right thing.

“Lee County’s policy of educating people about why they should choose to wear a mask and follow the precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19 is working just as well as a mask mandate,” he said via e-mail. “I’m extremely proud of our residents. They are displaying incredible personal responsibility. When we get good information, we will make good choices.”