A Florida sheriff has banned his employees from wearing masks and said visitors to police stations will also be asked to remove facial protection.
Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods said in an email to staff that he had weighed both sides of the issue amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Woods said exceptions to his mask prohibition will be made for deputies at jails, schools, courthouses, hospitals, nursing homes and when dealing with someone who is elderly or has Covid-19.
He said: “Now, I can already hear the whining and just so you know I did not make this decision easily and I have weighed it out for the past 2 weeks.
“We can debate and argue all day of why and why not. The fact is, the amount of professionals that give the reason why we should, I can find the exact same amount of professionals that say why we shouldn’t.”
On Wednesday, Florida reported 213 new coronavirus deaths, bringing its fatality total to 8,898 and its average daily deaths over the past week to 164.
The sheriff’s decision came as the county’s largest city, Ocala, about 80 miles northwest of Orlando, was debating implementing a face mask mandate.
The Ocala City Council passed an emergency ordinance last week requiring facial coverings inside businesses, but the mayor vetoed it, and the council is considering a possible override of the veto.