Sheriff Billy Woods recently announced his decision to keep employees and visitors at his office from wearing masks, with a few exceptions of when they can be worn.
Some of the exceptions and rules for when to wear a mask include:
- if they are responding to a hospital, the courthouse, the jail, or public or private schools where a mask mandate is in place
- officers on patrol should carry a mask in the chance they have to respond to a nursing home, assisted living facility, a COVID-19 address alerted from dispatch, or any calls that involve high-risk elderly persons
An email from Woods dated August 11 said, “my order will stand as is when you are on-duty/working as my employee and representing my Office – masks will not be worn”. He also mentioned that he did not make this decision lightly and that he has spent the last two weeks deciding on what to do.
He also said,
“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”.Email from Sheriff Billy Woods
The week prior to this announcement Ocala City Council passed an emergency ordinance that makes mask-wearing inside businesses mandatory. It was vetoed by the Mayor, Kent Guinn, but the council will meet again to consider an override on the veto.
“For all of these exceptions, the moment that enforcement action is to be taken and it requires you to give an individual orders/commands to comply, the mask will be immediately removed.”
The Sheriff encouraged his employees that when on duty if they encounter a person harassing them for not wearing a mask they must respond “I am not required to wear a mask nor will I, per the Order of the Sheriff” and then walk away.
“In light of the current events when it comes to the sentiment and/or hatred toward law enforcement in our country today, this is being done to ensure there is clear communication and for identification purposes of any individual walking into a lobby,” the Sheriff explained his reasoning as to why he isn’t requiring masks.
In the email, he said there are glass barriers in the lobby to ensure the safety of employees and visitors and that when visitors enter the lobby they will be asked to remove their mask for identification and clear communication purposes. An alternative is available for those needing to visit the office, but are not willing to remove their mask. The front desk will take their phone number, the person can wait outside or in their vehicle, and when the office is available to help them they will be called or texted to come inside.
The Sheriff assured in his email that with nearly 1000 employees and their low number of covid cases that “the current way we are approaching the issue is working”.
He concluded with,
“This is no longer a debate nor is it up for discussion. Please keep in mind this entire pandemic is fluid and constantly changing the way things are done. However, my orders will be followed or my actions will be swift to address. Be Safe!”Email from Sheriff Billy Woods