Nassau County commission votes in favor of ending mask mandate

City of Fernandina Beach says its mask mandate will stay in place until at least Oct. 6

NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. – The Nassau County Board of County Commissioners voted Wednesday evening in favor of ending the county’s mask mandate, according to a county spokesperson.

Sabrina Robertson, with the County Manager’s Office, said county commissioners voted 3-2 during a special meeting to lift the mandate after the county’s health director credited residents for following coronavirus protocols and keeping the case counts low through mask wearing and social distancing.

The mandate was lifted at noon Thursday, but masks will still be required inside all county buildings.

Robertson said residents are still strongly encouraged to wear masks when unable to social distance and businesses can still implement their own mask mandates.

Timothy Gillikin said he has lived in Nassau County for 40 years and is usually pretty update to date, but he and many people who News4Jax spoke with on Thursday had no idea that county commissioners had voted to do away with the mandate.

“I didn’t know nothing about the mandate was lifted, so I’d say it’s a bad idea for the county right now with flu season coming and all," Gillikin said.

Within Fernandina Beach city limits, however, masks are still required.

For months, the city has made decisions regarding COVID-19 in tandem with the county, but not this time. The city announced Thursday its mask mandate will stay in place until at least Oct. 6, and a city spokesperson said city commissioners will probably extend it at that time.

Downtown restaurant owners said they’ll just keep going about business as they have and reminding customers to wear their masks.

“I would say 65-70% of people are OK with it. About 30%, they’re not happy about having to wear their masks," said Ricky Pigg, owner of Joe’s 2nd Street Bistro.

Pigg said that if and when the city lifts its mask order, he will still implement one to coincide with whatever Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines state at the time.

When asked whether he thinks the city made the right choice, Pigg said: “That’s above my pay grade. I’m not a scientist or anything like that. When it comes down to it, at the end of the day, I work in the hospitality industry. I own a restaurant. My job is to make people feel comfortable and relaxed, and if that’s what it takes is wearing a mask to make them comfortable when they come in, that’s what we’re gonna do.”

The Board of County Commission said it will keep an eye on the coronavirus numbers and could reimpose the mask mandate if there’s a spike.

As of Thursday, there had been a total of 2,062 COVID-19 cases and 42 deaths reported in Nassau County since the pandemic began. According to the Florida Department of Health, the positivity rate the last week has been between 3% and 7%.

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