Mask mandates returning in public buildings as COVID cases rise

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BOYNTON BEACH — You’ll need to start wearing masks again in many public buildings as a result of new recommendations from federal health experts.

Broward County and several cities — Coral Springs, Lauderhill, Weston and Boynton Beach — all have reimposed mask requirements, with Broward’s set to take effect Friday. Palm Beach County is expected to follow.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday that all people, vaccinated or not, should wear masks indoors in areas where COVID-19 is surging, including Florida.

The recommendation set off a cascade of mask rules across the nation as cities, states, schools and businesses raced to restore mandates and others pushed back against the guidelines.

Florida cities were imposing mask rules despite a law pushed by Gov. Ron DeSantis that prohibits local government from penalizing violators. Several said they would simply refuse to serve anyone who refuses to wear a mask.

In Broward County, the rules requiring masks and social distancing will go into effect Friday for places such as county buildings, libraries, buses, the airport and Port Everglades, although officials did acknowledge “we can’t really enforce it.”

Children under age 2 are exempt, as are county employees and contractors eating and drinking in a break room or cafeteria. Anyone who can’t wear a mask because of a disability or medical condition will be accommodated.

In Weston, masks became mandatory Monday inside city buildings, including City Hall, the Community Center and the Tennis Center.

“It is only enforceable to the extent we could ask an individual who does not comply to leave, or we can refuse service,” said City Manager Don Decker.

Spokeswoman Paula Rubiano agreed in Coral Springs, which requires masks in all city buildings, including the Senior Center at Sartory Hall and the Coral Springs Gymnasium.

“If persons do not comply with our policy, we will inform them of the policy and ask them to comply,” Rubiano said. “If they choose not to comply, they will be asked to leave the respective facility.”

Boynton Beach’s order went into effect at 8 a.m. Thursday. The city said social distancing guidelines must be followed indoors and outdoors.

Social media reaction to Boynton’s decision was mixed .

“Shame on you Boynton,” one person posted on Facebook.

In another post, the person wrote, “Guess it is time to write the governor.”

Others were supportive. “It’s ok,” another person wrote. “We have to do what we must in order to protect one another. Stay Safe.”

One person tweeted simply, “Thank you.”

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Broward County’s action followed Miami-Dade County, where Mayor Daniella Levine-Cava said Wednesday that masks will be required at indoor county facilities.

Schools are wrestling with the issue as well. Broward School Board members decided Wednesday to require masks for the time being, contradicting the governor’s position that masks are unnecessary and even harmful in schools.

Nationwide, Nevada and Kansas City, Missouri, were among the locations that moved swiftly to re-impose indoor mask requirements. But governors in Arizona, Pennsylvania and South Carolina said they would resist reversing course.

The CDC’s new guidance applies to places with at least 50 new cases per 100,000 people in the last week, which is roughly 60% of all U.S. counties, federal officials said.

Nearly all of the South and Southwest is subject to the guidance, but most communities in the Northeast — with the exception of major metro areas like New York City and Boston — are exempt for now, according to the CDC’s COVID tracker.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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