You can join the virtual commission meeting at 3 p.m. by calling 571-317-3112 then entering the access code 949-134-269. The meeting will also be livestreamed on the city's website, www.lakelandgov.net.
LAKELAND — City commissioners will decide whether to extend the city’s mask mandate for 37 days on Monday afternoon.
The city’s face mask mandate that says “every person working, living, visiting or doing business in the City of Lakeland shall wear a face covering… other than (in) their home or residence” is set to expire at 5 p.m. Monday. Lakeland commissioners are expected to vote at 3 p.m. on whether to extend the requirements through Sept. 8.
Such measures aimed at helping stop or slow the spread of COVID-19 have been controversial in Lakeland, Polk County and across the state, according to city attorney Palmer Davis.
“A number of lawsuits have been filed challenging mask mandates across the state,” he said. “So far, none have been successful — that I’m aware of.”
Lakeland had not been sued over its mask mandate as of Friday, according to Davis.
“I’m on the lookout for it,” he said.
In Florida, some residents have filed for temporary injunctions from courts to exempt them from having to mask up. Most have been unsuccessful, according to Davis, as judges have denied these requests.
Two commissioners, Bill Read and Scott Franklin, voted against imposing the citywide mandate passed July 2, citing individuals’ Constitutional freedoms. Both have said they wear a mask in public.
Dr. Joy Jackson, director of Florida Department of Health in Polk County, will appear virtually before the commission Monday to speak about the COVID-19 pandemic. She strongly supported the city’s original passage of a mask ordinance.
“All individuals in Florida should wear masks in any setting where social distancing is not possible, unless the individual is a child 2 years or younger or unless the individual has a medical condition,” she told commissioners at the July 2 meeting. “Masks are effective in reducing COVID transmission.”
Winter Haven and Bartow have passed a similar facial covering requirement. Polk County Board of Commissioners recommended its use, but has not enacted a mask mandate. Lake Wales also passed a resolution strongly encouraging masks but declined to require tham. But Lake Wales commissioners are set to reconsider a mask mandate this week.
As of July 2, Polk had approximately 4,300 COVID-19 cases. There were more than 8,600 new cases recorded in July and 257 more on the first day of August, bringing Polk’s total to 12,991 cases, according to Sunday morning’s state report.
City staff have been distributing free reusable cotton masks to residents at six locations since July 16. Those who choose not to obey Lakeland’s ordinance face up to a $250 fine.
There are a dozen exceptions to Lakeland’s mask mandate:
• Children under the age of 8 years old.
• People observing social distancing in accordance with Centers for Disease Contol and Prevention guidelines.
• People for whom a face covering would cause impairment due to an existing health condition.
• People working in a business or profession who do not have interactions with other persons.
• People working in a business or profession who maintain social distancing from other persons.
• People working in a business or profession where use of a face covering would prevent them from performing their duties.
• People exercising, while maintaining social distancing.
• People eating or drinking.
• Children younger than 18 while participating in youth sports.
• Public safety, fire and other life safety and health care personnel, as their protective equipment requirements will be governed by their respective agencies.
• People communicating with someone who is hearing impaired where the wearing of a face covering would impede communication, provided that social distancing is observed to the greatest extent practicable.
• People for whom the requirement to wear a face covering would cause a conflict with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Lakeland police spokeswoman Robin Tillett said no citations had been issued for failure to wear a mask as of Friday afternoon.
Residents interested in commenting on Lakeland’s mask mandate can join the virtual commission meeting at 3 p.m. Monday by calling 571-317-3112 then entering the access code 949-134-269. The meeting will also be livestreamed on the city’s website, www.lakelandgov.net.
Sara-Megan Walsh can be reached at email@example.com or 863-802-7545.