Council Approves Mask Mandate for City Buildings in Special Meeting

by SC Publisher Shannen Hayes

As Florida battles a surge in Covid cases brought on by the highly contagious Delta variant, Sanibel City Council convened a special meeting Saturday morning to address any necessary restrictions and adopt a resolution that encourages vaccinations and wearing a face covering.

Anyone who is 2 years or older must wear a face cover while inside public city buildings effective immediately. A mask mandate for City Hall, Public Works and Donax Wastewater facilities was approved by a unanimous vote.

Council approved a mask requirement for the Sanibel Recreation Center by a 3-1 vote. There was some debate over the effectiveness of a mask mandate for children, specifically the 56 children who have enrolled in the upcoming after-school program at the Recreation Center.

The Sanibel School, part of the Lee County school system, will not have a mask mandate for students when they return to the classroom. Recreation Director Trish Phillips said the after-school program will have outdoor activities, but plenty of space is available indoors for separation in case of inclement weather.

Councilman Dr. Scott Crater spoke to the recent Delta-driven surge hitting the younger population more than previous surges. He argued masks should be required for children while indoors to help mitigate its easy spread, even if they are not required to wear them at school.

Councilman John Henshaw, who participated in the meeting virtually, questioned the effectiveness of a mask mandate for children. “It’s very different to get a child to properly wear a mask,” he said. “It’s good theoretically.”

Mayor Holly Smith voted against the motion on the basis parents should have the responsibility of their child or children wearing a mask.

The mandate also requires a face covering to be worn in the weight room or on the treadmills, in fitness classes and by those who are purchasing beach parking permits and dog licenses at the Recreation Center. Face coverings remain optional for outdoor activities, such as the pool deck and tennis courts.

In other actions:

Signs will return to Causeway Boulevard next week. Council unanimously approved messages that will encourage vaccinating against Covid-19 and the wearing of a mask.

A resolution encouraging vaccinations and wearing a mask while indoors at public places was unanimously adopted by council. READ RESOLUTION 21-66.

Council will have its regular meeting at 9 a.m. Aug. 24 in MacKenzie Hall, 800 Dunlop Rd.

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