The Monroe County Health Department has issued a new order, effective today, requiring all individuals to wear a face covering to help mitigate the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The order takes effect at 5 p.m. and requires people to wear a face shield, covering or mask covering their nose and mouth when indoors, other than in their own home or home of an immediate family member.
"We're looking into having the health board put this into regulation form. That will tighten our ability to enforce this rule," Monroe County Health Administrator Penny Caudill said.
The requirement includes outdoor situations where physical distancing of at least 6 feet is not possible.
According to the order, those who cannot afford a face covering should contact the health department, the Office of Emergency Management or the Monroe County Commissioners’ Office and one will be provided at no cost.
"Our intention is to educate people and to provide them with face coverings if they don't have them, and help people understand the importance of it," Caudill said.
Exceptions to the mandate include children 2 years old or younger, those in personal vehicles or alone in a room in a public building, and individuals with a documented physical, medical or health-related reason for not wearing a mask.
All county businesses are required to ensure their customers comply. Those who fail to enforce the rule could be forced to close.
"What we want is cooperation and compliance," Caudill said. "But if we are put in a position where we have to issue a fine, that would be a possibility."
The ordinance also includes several new provisions for social gatherings and restaurants.
Beginning July 31 at noon, all non-commercial gatherings, including private gatherings, cannot have more than 50 people. At the same time, gatherings at venues offered to the general public for rent or use may not have more than 100 people if indoors or more than 150 if outdoors. Applications for exemptions are available.
Also beginning July 31 at noon, restaurants, bars and nightclubs may no longer offer bar-top service. These businesses are encouraged to prioritize outdoor seating, and parties may have no more than 10 people at each table. Those tables must also be spaced at least 6 feet apart.