Exemptions are Killing Mask Wearing Mandates

The mask wearing debacle continues and Governor Rick DeSantis isn’t going to be the deciding factor in mandates. In a press conference Sunday (6/28/2020), DeSantis said that COVID-19 cases have risen significantly over the past week. He encouraged everyone to avoid enclosed spaces and places that are overcrowded. He also acknowledged that young people partying at a house are probably not going to wear masks. 

DeSantis is encouraging mask wearing, and he says it would be great if everyone would wear them. The problem comes down to enforcing a mask mandate. Instead of tackling this impossible scenario, he recommends educating the public and promoting mask wearing. He leaves mask mandates in the hands of local governments throughout the state. 

Orange County, FA has a mask mandate, but there are many exemptions.

Orange County Mask Exemptions

  • First responders
  • Government workers
  • Those in the transit industry
  • Shelter and rehab centers
  • Those in childcare
  • Children under 2 years of age
  • Those with health conditions that worsen with mask wear
  • People exercising
  • Those who don’t interact with the public during work
  • Utility providers

The Problem with Too Many Exemptions

The biggest problem with exemptions in Orange County is that there are too many of them! Offering so many exemptions paints a picture that they aren’t really necessary, so people don’t take the mask mandate seriously. They also become somewhat discriminatory. Why wouldn’t government workers need to wear masks? Of course, the recommendations are still to wear masks, but you don’t absolutely have to if you fall into a category that allows for an exemption. This calls into question the purpose of the mandate. Why not just tell everyone to wear masks and hope they’ll do it? This is likely to be just as effective without using extra resources to make useless mandates. 

The Problem with Exemptions for Health Conditions

The intent of mask wearing is to protect people from illness, but it doesn’t do that for some people with certain health conditions. For some people, mask wearing exacerbates pre-existing conditions. This could be a respiratory condition, or it could be something less obvious such as post-traumatic stress. 

The problem with exemptions for health conditions is that you must invade a person’s protected health information. They should not have to tell you what condition that they have, as they have a right to privacy. You would have to ask in order to find out, and it is against the law for you to have the right to know. Providing exemption cards is one way to do it, but fraudulent cards have already been circling, so people will have their doubts. 

Exemptions for health conditions are sort of like emotional support dogs. They get out of hand, and pretty soon everyone is bringing their dog into the store. In the State of Florida, stores can prohibit emotional support dogs but must allow service dogs even if they are for psychiatric support. Clearly, similar definitions have not been delineated for health conditions that do and don’t allow for mask wearing. This makes the mask mandate unfair and less effective. 

Mask Mandates Might be Racist

Racial profiling has also been suggested as a negative result of mask wearing mandates. People of color feel they may look menacing wearing a mask. In one Oregon County, they exempted non-whites. This has created an interesting argument about mask wearing mandates, and this time, it seems that white people are the only people who must protect the public from their droplets. It is clear that racial issues are currently very sensitive however, so if non-white people feel they may be treated poorly because of mask wearing, this may be reasonable. 

The Right to Choose

What Governor DeSantis suggested in his press conference is that mask wearing mandates are not enforceable. People want to be able to choose whether or not they cover their faces. Telling people to do it will make some people comply, but others will refuse because they believe it is their right to choose. A more effective method to make people wear masks is to provide them with clear information about the benefits. 

It goes without saying that people don’t like the pandemic and what it has done to social gatherings, the economy, and people who have suffered from illness or death due to the virus. They want it to be over, but misinformation has left no real path to its end. Mask wearing might be effective, but it won’t be effective until the public is convinced that it is the right choice. 

Other Florida Counties with Mask Mandates

Many other Florida Counties are jumping on the mask-wearing mandate wagon. 

  • Broward County
  • Duval County
  • Gadsden County
  • Hillsborough County
  • Indian River County
  • Leon County
  • Martin County
  • Miami-Dade County
  • Monroe County
  • Osceola County
  • Palm Beach County
  • Pasco County
  • Pinellas County

The decision to enforce mask wearing mandates will vary. Some of the counties have instituted a $500 fine for people who refuse to wear a mask in public places. 

Can You Sue a Business Over Mask Requirements? 

There are some lawsuits that people have filed over mask requirements. Most of them revolve around not being allowed to grocery shop without a mask. The argument is that it violates ADA anti-discrimination laws against the disabled. These lawsuits are ongoing. 

If a business fails to abide by a mask mandate, you may have an especially difficult time in a lawsuit because you’d have to prove damages. In most cases, entering a business is optional. You only suffer damages if you can prove that your potential COVID-19 case was contracted there, and they had an obligation to protect you from it. The problem is obvious. 

Still, there are countless arguments for and against mask mandates, and there will likely be lawsuits for unpredictable damages. Some of these may be successful. In a successful civil suit against a business, the business must have had a duty to act and failed to meet that duty. Additionally, this failure must have resulted in your injury, and you must have been injured. Where there is a mask mandate, you could argue that there is a duty. However, you’d also have to prove an injury as a direct result. 

The Seat Belt Argument for Mask Mandates

Prior to the 1980s seat belt laws, many people didn’t wear seat belts. Once the law was enacted, it took some time to get people to buckle up. Police pulled people over and issued tickets. At first, compliance was probably due to fines as much as safety. Forty years later, most people wear their seat belts for safety. It has greatly reduced the chance of death during a motor vehicle accident. 

Maybe, mandating mask wearing is much like mandating seat belt wearing. People aren’t convinced until it hurts their pocketbook not to comply. However, police forces are already overburdened in their current duties. It will be difficult to get them to enforce the mandates. 

Cases Soaring, Confusion Continues

The numbers surrounding COVID-19 have been questioned and altered to fit the narratives of whoever discloses them. This has resulted in distrust from the public, which makes mask wearing mandates questionable. People are confused about what is right, and they don’t want to lose any rights. 

If you are concerned about an injury you have received due to mask mandates or a lack of mask mandates, it is possible that you have a good reason to file a personal injury lawsuit. Contact Kirshner, Groff, and Diaz to get a no-obligation consultation about your case. You’ll speak to an actual lawyer right away who can guide you through the next steps in your legal journey. 



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