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New Broward mayor petitions governor for “mask mandate”



The same day he was nominated and sworn in as the new mayor of Broward County, Steve Geller sent a letter to Governor Ron DeSantis requesting a statewide mask mandate.

“I strongly urge all patriotic Americans to protect themselves, their neighbors and co-workers by wearing a mask,” he told fellow commissioners and the public at the Nov. 17 county commission meeting, adding that there are two ways to combat Covid-19: wear a mask and shut downs.

Geller said he found it ironic that the very people who don’t want to wear masks, are the same people who don’t want businesses and schools to shut down.

COVID-positive numbers for Broward were edging up to 7.9 percent that day.

Geller expressed concern that with possible super spreader events like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, the numbers would rise to above 10 percent or into the teens by January because COVID fatigue has set in – people are tired of not gathering, wearing masks and social distancing.

“The bad news is: We’re not there yet [beyond COVID] and we can’t pretend like we are,” said Geller.

In his letter to DeSantis, Geller writes, “It is unclear how one can be considered pro-business without being in favor of mandatory mask wearing . . . I ask you to strongly consider entering a statewide order mandating wearing a mask when outside one’s home [except under the limited circumstances when wearing one is not possible]. If we don’t have a statewide order mandating mask wearing, I fear that a broad business shutdown may soon become necessary.”

If the governor fails to issue a statewide mask order, Geller wants him to rescind Section 4 of his Executive Order Number 20-244, filed Sept. 25.

“While Section 4 merely ‘suspends the collection of fines and penalties associated with COVID-19 enforced upon individuals,’ it is being widely misinterpreted as preventing local governments from requiring mask wearing . . . Based on continuing discussions with local business leaders, Section 4 makes it more difficult for businesses to insist on compliance with local mask mandates, creating greater risk not only of disease-spread events, but that the businesses themselves may be cited for noncompliance.”

Violations can be reported to the county at or by calling 311. The county’s efforts are overseen by its Environmental Protection and Growth Management Department.

Violators can be charged and fined but no money is collected.

Geller said at the meeting that the DeSantis’ current order postponing the ability to collect fines for infractions does not stop the ability to collect funds in the future.

Broward County Commission Public Information Manager Kimberly Maroe added, “Fines could be collected once and if the governor’s order has expired.”

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