BOCC extends mask order for another 30 days

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The Nassau County Board of County Commissioners unanimously extended the county’s mandatory face covering order for another 30 days on Wednesday, but not without some questioning by at least one board member.

Dr. Eugenia Ngo-Seidel, director of the Florida Department of Health – Nassau County, told the board that total COVID-19 cases in Nassau County are approaching 1,000, with over 500 of those in the past month. Ngo-Seidel said that before the mandatory mask ordinance, positive cases among those tested were close to 10%. Now, she said, they are closer to 8%, indicating to her that the masks are helping to reduce cases. She said the masks prevent spreading the virus to others.

Ngo-Seidel also talked about the new testing site at the Target store parking lot in Yulee, which is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and also stated that with school getting ready to reopen, 795 children have been tested with about an 8.9% positivity rate.

As of Thursday, July 30, there were 10 officially reported deaths related to COVID-19 in Nassau County.

Commissioner Justin Taylor agreed that the coronavirus pandemic is a “very serious situation.” But he stated, “I don’t like government mandating something like this; but rather prefer encouraging mask use. I would like to see a case where it is recommended rather than mandated.” Taylor added, “What is our goal? Will we still have a mask ordinance 30 days from now? I just wonder at what point is it too much.”

Commissioner Aaron Bell pointed out that when the mask ordinance was first put in place, “We said we would wait 30 days and see if it helps. We were at 10 % positive rate then and about 8% now, so it seems to be working.” 

Commissioner Pat Edwards added, “We are elected to lead. We need to continue.”

Agreeing, District 4 Commissioner Thomas Ford stated, “We have to look out for the welfare of the 82,000 people in the county. Sometimes that means making hard decisions.”

According to Florida Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkee, “With a few exceptions (e.g., infants under two years of age, or removal of the face-covering is required for an activity like dentistry or eating) every individual in Florida should wear a face-covering over the nose and mouth in any setting where social distancing is not possible, both indoors and outdoors; this includes in your own home when visitors are present.

“All individuals over 65 years of age, and those of any age with health conditions that increase their risk for complications from an infection, should limit personal interactions with non-household members and take these protective actions:

• maintain six feet of distance from others;

• wear a face-covering when closer contact is unavoidable;

• wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds;

• avoid all unnecessary touching of eyes, nose, and mouth;

• wash hands first if face must be touched; and

• clean and disinfect all touched surfaces, including door handles.

“Face-coverings are not a substitute for social distancing, washing your hands, and staying home when you are ill. All of these mitigation measures should be carefully followed together to reduce the spread of COVID-19.”