Naples City Council approves mask mandate

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The Naples City Council approved a mask mandate during a special meeting on Monday.

The vote was 4-3 in favor of the mandate, which requires masks inside all businesses and public buildings and outside at events where social distancing isn’t possible.

Monday’s meeting, the third on the mask issue, came after the council tabled a decision on masks last Wednesday. Naples Fire Chief Pete DiMaria said he felt encouraged by the direction the discussion had taken at the time.

DiMaria has been asking for a mask mandate since July, when the council voted against one. He says this isn’t about taking away people’s rights, it’s about protecting each other. The virus hits close to home for his fire department, as they lost a member to it not long ago.

“We’ve had a firefighter here in our agency that we lost to COVID; he was a young man in his 50s, in pretty good health,” DiMaria said. “And so I would say it’s real, it’s arbitrary, you don’t know what it’s gonna do to you. You may have no symptoms, you may be fine, you may have flu symptoms, or it may put you in the hospital, and worst-case scenario you may be facing a fatality with it, and there’s no doubt that this virus is real and it’s not to be reckoned with.”

DiMaria believes the mandate gives assurance to people visiting the city that they are safe.
As far as enforcement, he believes education will work, rather than the penalties seen in other counties.

“We want to educate, we want to encourage, we want to make sure that everyone’s doing the right thing for them, and I think we’ll probably use enforcement as a tool to educate people,” DiMaria said. “I don’t see us slapping big fines or penalties onto people. I see us talking to people without masks, trying to encourage them to wear them.”

DiMaria added that even though vaccines are rolling out, we still need to mask up in order to keep each other safe.

The city’s third discussion on the topic was a fiery one, with a police officer having to step in twice and at least one person being escorted out.

More than half of the people who spoke Monday came out strongly against the mandate, citing their civil liberties.

“There are people who are not going to put the mask on. And you can’t arrest everybody,” one said.

Some said we’re slipping into socialism.

“You have to start thinking outside of all the hype, all the hype is for one reason: to bring socialism.”

But the passion extended to both sides, with several medical professionals even giving their point of view.

“When other people see everyone wearing masks, they’re more likely to do it,” one said.

In the end, it went their way.

The resolution will allow City of Naples code enforcement officers to fine businesses and event organizers who don’t comply with the mandate, which will expire April 13, unless Gov. Ron DeSantis rescinds the State of Emergency before then.

Exceptions to the mandate include children 2 and under and those with medical conditions in which wearing a mask would cause impairment.

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