Collier County, Naples mask mandates set to expire, raising some concerns with state case counts

Reporter: Gina Tomlinson Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Credit: WINK News.

Coronavirus cases are steadily rising in Florida. According to the Florida Department of Health, the state averaged nearly 5,000 reported cases each day in March.

Some health officials in Collier County are concerned our numbers will grow even quicker if we let our guard down too fast.

That’s especially with businesses throughout the City of Naples and Collier County that will no longer be on the hook to follow the county’s mask mandate when they expire on April 13.

“It’s been really open. I’ll say that,” said Matthew DiPaolo, who was visiting the region. “People in the north are a little more closed down.”

Restaurants are fully open, and the streets are bustling. It’s a striking contrast for DiPaolo and his family.

“We’re from [Pennsylvania] Bluebell, Penn,” DiPaolo said.

They are in Naples on vacation, as COVID-19 cases in Florida are steadily rising again.

”It doesn’t shock me at all,” DiPaolo said. “I mean, look at all these people walking around, and nobody has any masks on, and no one seems to care.”

FDOH reports, for March, there’s been an average of 70 cases per day in Collier County.

But at hospitals such as NCH Healthcare System, CEO Paul Hiltz says they’re seeing fewer patients with COVID-19 and fewer deaths.

“We think that the masking and the social distancing and of course all the vaccinations are helping too,” Hiltz said.

With mask mandates both in Naples and the county set to expire in the coming weeks, some worry cases will jump.

“We want to protect us and protect the customers,” said Gloria Arica at The Blue Mussel.

Either way, Arica says her store will still require employees to mask up.

“It’s a very good idea. It’s prevention,” Arica said.

But others, such as Quint Jardine, are following a different school of thought.

“I’m a physician,” Jardine said. “I had the Pfizer injection back in December.”

He was also visiting the region. He believes it’s the right time to loosen restrictions.

“I think it certainly should be people’s choice,” Jardine said. “I think people still need to be safe. They should be courteous of others.”

Some businesses told us they’d require customers to wear masks too until at least the summer. Currently, neither the city nor the county plan to extend the mandate.

Copyright ©2024 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.