Nearly 24 hours after Collier commissioners voted down a mask mandate, the weight of that decision is setting in for some.
No masks are required, but some businesses have signs on their doors saying you should wear one anyway.
Three commissioners prefered leaving the mask decision to individual businesses like this one and want to focus on education to get the rest of the community on board.
Still, many feel that’s not enough.
“People are not keeping their distance,” said Jackie Kostic. “We were just up in Publix — half the people did not have masks on so that was disturbing, to say the least.”
The idea that commissioners voted down a mask mandate after hearing from about 200 people, most of whom supported a mandate, surprised Suzanne Cherney who worked for the World Health Organization for 30 years and has since retired in Naples.
“I worked as the senior writer for the AIDS program,” she said. “The idea that a tiny little thing like a virus was killing people was just too fantastical.”
Cherney fears now, without a mandate in place, there’s no way of stopping COVID-19 from spreading.
“It was skewed because many of the early speakers were against the masks and most of the later speakers were for it,” she said.
She was one of the later speakers whose time got cut in half.
“I think it was predetermined and I don’t really think they listened to the input. They listened, but they didn’t hear it,” she said.
However, some gave commissioners an earful about how a mask mandate was too much government overreach and violated constitutional rights — issues Kostic, who also has a background in the medical field, says aren’t as important as public health.
“I was in New York City when the towers fell, I was in NYC for AIDS crisis, SARS and many other things I was involved in as a healthcare executive, so I don’t scare easy, but this has me scared,” she said. “The people who saw this is a slippery slope, what are they going to be asking us next? To take a vaccine? Well, yeah, that’s the only way the epidemic is really going to ever come under control and if people are so set in their ways against listening to science now, I despair for Southwest Florida!”
We did reach out to commissioners to see what kind of feedback they’ve received since the meeting.
Commissioner Andy Solis, who supports masks, says since Tuesday night, he has received well over 100 emails thanking him and five negative ones.
We have not heard back from the others.