KISSIMMEE, Fla. — A face-covering order is officially in effect for everyone in Osceola County as leaders say this is another step toward stopping the spread of COVID-19.
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County leaders are taking this new step seriously, adding that it is meant to be an education tool.
Initially, if anyone was caught without a face covering, law enforcement could give that person an up to $500 fine, or he or she could spend up to 60 days in jail. But as of Monday, Osceola County leaders have rolled back on those punishments.
Now, residents will no longer face a fine of up to $500 or jail time if they don't wear a face covering in public.
The change comes after county commissioners raised concerns about the penalties. Leaders in the Executive Police Group Monday afternoon unanimously decided to drop the potential for a fine or jail time for people who don’t follow the rules.
Last Friday in a 5-to-4 vote, Sheriff Russ Gibson himself voted against making it mandatory to wear face coverings, but nonetheless he said he wants residents to comply.
“It’s for those people that are carrying this virus that have these symptoms, and they don’t even know they are carriers. It’s important for them not to spread the disease, the virus, especially when they don’t know that they’re covering it. That is really what the face covering is for," Gibson explained.
Osceola County resident Eryc Labattaglia, 21, says this order could be the wake-up call people need.
“Definitely from what I’ve seen, a lot of people have not been taking it seriously enough,” Labattaglia said.
Eryc says his family is expecting a baby soon.
“Yep, yeah in August, due in August,” Labattaglia said.
So he’s all for anything that could keep his family safer.
“You never know who’s going to have it or who will have it, and you don’t want to end up contracting it and taking it home to your family and giving it to your family,” he said.
But county leaders do not want you buying surgical masks or N95 masks, because healthcare workers and first responders desperately need them.
“A face covering will not take away critical Personal Protective Equipment from those on the frontline on this battle,” Janer said.
That means a bandana, shirt or any cloth will do, as long it covers your face and mouth and you don't have to hold it with your hands.
Osceola County Sheriff Russ Gibson says this is meant to be a tool for education, not for hurting people.
“We’re not doing this because we can, we’re doing this to curtail or stop the spread of this virus,” Gibson said.
Orange County leaders have also considered a face-covering order, but are concerned that people would not be able to get the face coverings.
Dan Messineo contributed to this story.