I also spoke with Broward County officials, to ensure we take a regional approach to tamp down the rising number of COVID-19 cases and avoid stretching some smaller hospitals’ ability to have sufficient staffing in the event of too many cases overwhelming the region’s healthcare system. After speaking with Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry, we agreed that a blanket facial coverings order is needed at this time.
Among the hospital leaders in the virtual meeting were CEOs from Jackson Health, U-Health, Mount Sinai, Baptist, HCA and Tenet health systems. Also participating in the call were hospital officials from Broward and Palm Beach counties.
I will be signing the order later tonight. It will continue to require masks indoors in public spaces, such as office buildings, stores and all businesses, as required by Order 20-20, which I signed on April 9. The amendment to this order that I plan to sign will expand on the use of masks outdoors, which have been required when social distancing of six feet is not possible. The amendment will now require masks to always be used outdoors with few exceptions. The exclusions to the use of masks apply only to those with respiratory conditions that make it difficult to cover their mouth and nose, people doing strenuous activities, such as jogging, and children under the age of 2, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control.
Certain cities already require the use of facial coverings outdoors. Although the masks haven’t been required in unincorporated areas of the County because there is more open space, I have made the decision to now require facial coverings countywide in an effort to help our hospitals operate with sufficient staffing to care for all patients.
Until the County establishes civil fines related to this order, the current penalties for violating an emergency order remain in effect: up to $500 and/or up to 180 days in jail.
I want to once again reiterate that if everyone follows the New Normal rules of social distancing of at least six feet, wear facial coverings (which can be homemade) and stay safer at home unless they need to go to work or to a store, we can get back to opening up our economy. If people continue to flout the rules, we will be forced to close non-essential businesses and all other activities that we began opening up in May.
Please, follow the rules. Do it for your family, your friends, your community – if not for yourself. This pandemic has no borders and no age limits. It is attacking younger people who are ending up in the hospital.
During this July 4th holiday, our police department will continue to be out in force monitoring adherence to the New Normal Rules and will close businesses that are not complying. This is a life and death situation, and everyone must take it seriously.