On a day when Florida broke a record for new COVID-19 cases and Polk County reported 100-plus cases for a second day in a row, Mayor Bill Mutz today called a special meeting of the City Commission for Monday to discuss mandating face masks in public places.

“The anticipated goal, if passed, will be to have a mask mandate become effective by 6 p.m. or midnight the same day,” Mutz wrote in an email to members of the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce’s Reopen Lakeland Task Force, which he chairs.

Mask mandates have been activated this week in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Orlando/Orange County. They differ in scope, but generally apply to people in buildings outside the home. The St. Petersburg order applies to employees at businesses but not their customers.

Mutz’ email did not specify who a Lakeland mandate might apply to or where it would apply.

The Reopen Lakeland Task Force met Friday and discussed mandating masks but decided to push voluntary compliance over any mandates, Mutz told LkldNow following the meeting. But he also said that continued increases in cases might force a mandate, declaring relying on voluntary measures “will be relatively short lived if the numbers keep rising.”

In today’s email to task force members, Mutz said, “The growing concern expressed at our Friday meeting underscored the need to provide more enforcement capability for business owners through a potential governmental mask mandate. Meanwhile, the positive test rates continue to climb and the healthcare system is even more alarmed.”

The special City Commission will be held at 9 a.m. Monday via GotoMeeting, a virtual meeting platform similar to Zoom.

Members of the public will be able to watch the meeting live online or on cable channels Spectrum 643 or FiOS 43. A call-in code will be provided for audience participation, according to the city spokesman Kevin Cook.

Today’s COVID-19 update from the Florida Department of Health revealed that the state recorded 4,049 new cases, breaking a record set Friday, and 40 deaths.

In Polk County, 114 new cases were reported today after Friday’s count of 154 set a record. The previous high daily count had been 68, the number reported on both Wednesday and Thursday of this week.

There was one new death and four new hospitalizations in Polk County in today’s report.

LkldNow’s other local COVID-19 charts have also been updated with today’s numbers and can be seen on our COVID-19 page.

In response to rising COVID-19 cases, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor ordered masks be worn in all indoor locations outside the home when people can’t maintain six-foot separations. The order took effect within Tampa city limits at 5 p.m. Friday.

In St. Petersburg, Mayor Rick Kriseman on Wednesday required businesses to have their employees wear masks.

In Orange County, Mayor Jerry Demings ordered people to wear masks outside the home except when exercising; the order takes effect today. The Orange County order applies within Orlando, that city’s mayor said.

Unlike mayors in municipalities such as Tampa, St. Petersburg and Orange County, which have strong-mayor forms of government, Lakeland’s mayor is unable to enact an order without a majority vote of the commission.

Osceola County, which borders Polk on the east, has had a mask order in effect since mid-April.

Tampa’s mask order provides exceptions, the Tampa Bay Times reports. Among them: You can’t use a mask to conceal your identity.

Other exemptions noted by The Times include:

  • Children under 2.
  • Those observing federal social distancing guidelines (the 6-foot rule.)
  • Anyone who has pre-existing health conditions that would be adversely affected by a mask.
  • Those working inside in a business or profession who don’t interact with other people.
  • Those inside a business who socially distance themselves from others.
  • Those working in a business or profession where a mask or face covering would prevent them from performing their duties.
  • Exercising while social distancing.
  • Eating and drinking.
  • The mask rule doesn’t apply when a hearing-impaired person needs to see the mouth of someone wearing a mask in order to communicate.

Joy Jackson, the director of the Florida Department of Health raised alarms about Polk’s growing case load when she spoke to the Polk County Commission on Monday.

“I’m worried about the trends in cases in Polk County. I’m worried because we have a population that doesn’t have immunity to this disease,” she said. “COVID-19 is five to 20 times more fatal than influenza. This is not a pumped-up influenza.”

Her comments preceded a commission decision to spend $10 million of federal CARES Act funds to increase COVID-19 testing in Polk, targeting areas with vulnerable populations where testing has lagged.

Two county commissioners told News Channel 8 on Friday that they don’t expect county government to mandate mask wearing.

“While numbers are ticking up … I do not see Polk County following Tampa’s lead. Folks are smart enough to make their own decisions,” Commissioner George Lindsey said.

“The current trend is up but this is not a static situation and we expect numbers to go up and down over time,” said County Commission Chair Bill Braswell. “I think it is also important to note Tampa’s population is nine times more dense and St. Pete 12 times more dense than Polk County.”


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Barry Friedman founded Lkldnow.com in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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8 Comments

  1. I have a few questions you need to ask yourself before making any policy decisions concerning COVID:

    – How many of the new cases are strictly from testing?

    – How many new tests have there been this week?

    – What are the hospitalization rates? The graph in this story does not show a proportional increase in hospitalizations in relation to the increase in new cases.

    – Has the death rate increased?

    – Do you know or realize that statistically as the total number of reported cases increase the actual percentage rate of deaths drops?

    – Do you know or remember that the reason for the shutdown, masks, and social distancing was to help control the flow of patients to the hospitals so the hospitals would not be over-run with a massive influx of patients at one time; NOT to reduce the number of infections. This is what was meant by Flattening the Curve.
    – Do you realize or remember that Dr. Fauchi said at first that masks are not necessary and do not work. He has since walked that back but places like Walmart, who asks their associates to wear a mask or face covering, did not implement the usage of masks until they became readily available and that the public went without a mask mandate for 1 to 2 months with no worries about not wearing masks.

    Please check and know all the facts before making any decisions and please, do not make a decision because it may feel good or you believe “it’s the right thing to do.”

  2. Yes, it should be mandatory to wear a mask in Polk County. I’m elderly, high risks and work in LKLD. Thank you.

  3. Mask do not keep out the microorganisms from this virus. The scarfs people are also wearing are useless yet they are accepted. We also know that numbers are all doctored up. Just talk with some workers that work at the hospital that will give u an honest answer. Same thing with people that have died the numbers are all being played with. You cannot believe anything the media tells u these days. They tell u what they wont u to hear and the way they wont it told. The biggest part is what President trump called fake news

  4. Any protection is better than none!!! Mandate the MASKS! How much higher do the charts in the COVID 19 virus need to rise before you do what the ignorant people won’t , at this time this is the only hope we have of slowing it down!

  5. Please order the mandate for masks.we need protection.also I want stores to make mask mandetory.you cannot enter unless you have a mask on. I no longer go shopping, I
    do all I can on amazon.

  6. If you’re scared, wear a N95.
    If you’re vulnerable, wear a N95.
    N95’s are one way protection and protect the wearer, not the public…
    Why does everyone who is healthy and low risk have to wear a mask because you are high risk and don’t take the proper precautions for yourself by wearing the correct mask?

  7. The mandatory mask requirement needs to be lifted. Mask DO NOT stop or prevent the spread of COVID-19 . It says this right on the box! Mask decrease our oxygen levels to the brain by 20%, causes stress on the body which weaken our immune systems, and increases our chances of getting sick and going into hypoxia. I REFUSE to weaken my own immune system to give people a false sence of security. IT DOES NOT WORK. It has been proven in other states and countries like Sweden that social distancing and mask do not work. This virus has a .26% death rate! That’s less than 1% and not to mention the test are less than 20% accurate and other causes of deaths are being added to the numbers!!!! What are we doing!!!

    You law makers are making decisions not based on science. Your following along with whatever the “higher ups” tell you without doing your own research or possibly are apart of the political agenda as well. This would have been understood at the beginning of the pandemic because we didn’t have any data on it yet. But now there is so much data confirming we are being fooled that its undeniable.

    We elected you all to fight for us and have our best interest at heart. Not put regulations in place that dont make sence. I’ve lived in Lakeland for 38 yrs, grew up here, and raised my children here. I’m ashamed of my city and my law makers right now. I hope you all pull your head out your asses and start making better leadership decisions for us. At the end of the day, you will have the Lord to answer to for the decisions you’ve made.

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