CAPE CORAL, Fla. — A debate about whether or not masks should be required in public got heated in Cape Coral City Council Chambers Thursday.
Council members have opposing views, and so did the people who showed up to the meeting.
“I will not wear a mask! Fine me and I will not pay for it!” one woman shouted in opposition to the face mask ordinance during public comment.
Between people going over their three-minute time limit and the constant applause for people against the, Mayor Joe Coviello had to step in.
“If the outburst of applause continue, I’ll clear our chambers and you can all clear out and watch in the hallway,” he said.
The mayor called the public meeting to discuss emergency ordinance 1-20, a push to mandate people wear face coverings in businesses - something he strongly supports.
“If we don’t put the breaks on this and get this under control, and do it quickly, and accurately. And move it forward in a fashion where people understand the importance of wearing a mask, those numbers are going to get worse,” he said “And businesses are going to be hurting more than they are now.”
If passed, violators would have to pay a $50 fine the first time, $125 for the second and $250 for every offense that follows.
Councilwoman Marilyn Stout said she would not vote for it.
“It worries me that we’re taking these dollars out of somebody’s pocket that may need it for food,” she said.
Many who showed up were also against it but for different reasons.
“Help our at-risk neighbors stay home, while this virus runs its course in the healthy as we gain herd immunity. It’s not going away by wearing masks,” said one woman.
Others support the ordinance to slow the spread of COVID-19, but disagreed with the fines.
“It gives the opportunity to fine people who are underprivileged. But I firmly believe that we do need masks, and the consequences should be something else,” said another Cape Coral resident.
The council postponed to vote on the ordinance since a council member had to leave early. They’re set to vote Monday at 4:30 p.m.