Cocoa Beach has joined Satellite Beach as the Space Coast's first communities adopting mask mandates amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
During a Tuesday night special meeting, the Cocoa Beach City Commission voted 3-2 to approve an emergency order requiring people to wear face coverings at indoor public locations.
"People need to take responsibility for not infecting other people — and they may not even know they have it," Vice-Mayor Mike Miller said.
Copies of the emergency order shall be posted on entry doors of all Cocoa Beach indoor businesses. Mask exceptions include children younger than age 2, people with health conditions who would be impaired by masks, and people eating and drinking at restaurants.
"Are we going to catch everybody that doesn't wear a mask? We don't catch everybody that goes over 35 miles an hour, either," Miller said.
"But the fact is, we need to set an example," said Miller, who cited the safety of Cocoa Beach business employees.
Miller, Mayor Ben Malik and Commissioner Skip Williams voted yes. Commissioners Ed Martinez and Karalyn Woulas voted no.
Monday, the Satellite Beach City Council approved an emergency ordinance directing customers and employees to wear masks inside "essential" businesses: grocery stores, pharmacies, convenience stores and gas stations. Violators may face warnings and increasing fines up to $500.
Cocoa Beach City Manager Jim McKnight said Satellite Beach's mask mandate was the first enacted in Brevard County. The Cocoa Beach emergency order did not include penalties for violators.
Dr. John McPherson, an emergency medicine physician at Holmes Regional Medical Center, delivered a mask presentation to the commission and passed out samples.
Calling masks “a necessary evil,” McPherson said asymptomatic coronavirus patients have surprised medical researchers.
“With the flu, you know who not to be around, because they’re coughing or sneezing. But with coronavirus, it’s diabolical — in that a number of people never have symptoms, yet they’re quite infected," McPherson said.
Martinez said he wears a mask in Publix and restaurants because it is the right thing to do. However, he said he had a problem with a government mask mandate.
He said the order is unenforceable because anyone without a mask could simply tell a police officer, "I have a health issue" — and the discussion would end because of privacy laws.
"We can't enforce a moral compass. And that's what we're trying to do," Martinez said.
Robyn Hattaway is a Cocoa attorney who represents the Beachwave chain and sister stores Xtreme Surf Shop, Everything Shells and Waves Nothing Over $8.99.
Hattaway objected to the emergency order's language stating "all businesses are encouraged to prohibit entry" of people without masks.
"The businesses need clarification. What are they supposed to do to prohibit entry? What is your expectation of them? They aren't law enforcement agencies," Hattaway said to commissioners.
"There are a lot of viral videos going around right now with employees around the country facing violent backlash from non-compliant customers," she said.
In a separate COVID-19 matter last week, Cocoa Beach commissioners voted to limit beach groups to 10 or fewer people heading into the busy Fourth of July weekend. Violators could be socked with $500 fines. The order also requires social distancing of at least 10 feet between beach groups.
Rick Neale is the South Brevard Watchdog Reporter at FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Neale at 321-242-3638 or email@example.com. Twitter: @RickNeale1. To subscribe: https://cm.floridatoday.com/specialoffer/\
This article originally appeared on Florida Today: COVID-19: Cocoa Beach, Florida, requires face masks indoors