Okaloosa County passes ‘face mask signage’ requirement for businesses

Okaloosa County passed an ordinance on Tuesday that requires all business establishments to prominently post signage at their front door indicating their business’s choice on face masks.

So what does that mean?

Every business establishment must place legible signage at every entrance used by customers or employees regarding the usage of face coverings within the establishment.

The signage must, at a minimum, be in English and be legible to the average individual at a distance of at least 6-feet. The signage must specify who, if anyone, is required to wear a face covering while within the establishment and under what conditions, such as only when social distancing is not possible. 

The signage must separately and explicitly indicate whether or not face coverings are required of on-duty employees and customers or guests.

What about a penalty for violating the mandate?

A violation of this Emergency Ordinance is a noncriminal infraction, according to documents.  A violation of this Emergency Ordinance does not authorize the search or arrest of an individual. 

Prior to the issuance of a citation, the entity or individual responsible for the business establishment will be asked to comply with the Emergency Ordinance. 

Failure to comply with the requirements of this Emergency Ordinance presents a serious threat to the public health, safety, and welfare according to the ordinbance. And a citation may be issued for such a violation after the inquiry referenced above.  

The penalty for a violation of this Emergency Ordinance is:

  1. For a first offense, a fine of $50.00
  2. For a second offense, a fine of $100.00
  3. For a third and each subsequent offense, a fine of $250.00
  4. All other remedies available at law or equity, including injunction, remain available to the County, even after issuance of a citation.

How is “face covering” defined?

As defined in the ordinance, a “Face Covering” is a material that covers the nose and mouth and that fits snugly against the sides of the face so there are no gaps.  It can be secured to the head with ties or straps or simply wrapped around the lower face.  It can be made of a variety of materials, such as cotton, silk, or linen. 

Coverings with materials made of multiple layers is highly encouraged.  A cloth face covering may be factory-made or sewn by hand, or the cloth face covering can be improvised from household items.

How is “Business establishment” defined?

“Business establishment” means a location with a roof overhead under which any business is conducted, goods are made or stored or processed or where services are rendered.  This includes transportation network companies, such as Ubers and Lyft, vehicles operated for mass transit, taxis, jitneys, limousines for hire, rental cars, and other passenger vehicles for hire. 

Additionally, it includes locations where non-profit, governmental, or quasi-governmental entities facilitate public interactions and conduct business, as well as places of worship.

Where does this apply across the County?

This Emergency Ordinance applies in the incorporated and unincorporated areas of Okaloosa County, unless in conflict with a municipal ordinance. 

That means, municipalities can opt-out.

When does this go into effect?

This Emergency Ordinance goes into effect on August 1 and automatically expires on October 01, 2020 unless extended by vote of the Board of County Commissioners.

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