Lafayette County Businesses Resist Wearing Masks As COVID-19 Cases Surge

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While Broward and Miami-Dade counties have received national attention as hotspots, Lafayette County now has the worst statewide case rate, with 1,532 cumulative cases — or 18,024 cases per 100,000 people — according to usafacts.org.

The Florida Department of Health has issued a public health advisory that encourages the public to wear face coverings, refrain from gatherings of more than 10 people, and avoid closed spaces. But without mandatory state-enforced regulations, individual counties can adopt rules that may be more strict or flexible than the states’ recommendations, causing safety measures to vary drastically between local businesses.

Lafayette County is one district that has adopted a more relaxed approach to combating COVID-19.

“People are taking it serious, those facemasks, some people aren’t,” said Cheryl Folsom, Owner of Sadie Ruth’s Cookie Jar in Lafayette County. “Businesses are not requiring them, but you do see a lot of people inside wearing face masks.”

Despite the high number of cases, convenience has become a top priority for smaller counties like Lafayette.

“I think people are ready for life to get back to normal as much as we can,” Folsom said. “You know, celebrations have started back, weddings are going.”

Lafayette’s neighboring county, Dixie County, also has a high amount of COVID-19 cases with 8,166 known cases per 100,000 people, according to usafacts.org.

Despite the high number of cases and optional regulations, Brooke Ogden, Manager at Who Dat Bar and Grill in Dixie County, is not concerned. She doesn’t feel like her health or the health of her staff is being threatened on a day-to-day basis in the restaurant, she said.

“We actually have not had any of our employees have the COVID, honestly,” Ogden said.

Although the CDC and Florida Health Department both recommend wearing masks, Ogden said she does not force her employees to wear a face covering because Dixie County doesn’t enforce any mask mandates.

“We don’t wear masks,” Ogden said. “We do everything else that we can. But we here, we do not wear the masks.”

Even though it appears that certain businesses are not strictly following the suggested guidelines, Health Officer Administrator of Lafayette and Suwannee Counties, Kerry Waldron, insists that Lafayette County is abiding by the CDC regulations, the department guidelines, and the executive orders of the Governor of Florida.

About Isabella Witkowich

Isabella is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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