Punta Gorda mask ordinance

Punta Gorda Mayor Nancy Prafke and City Attorney David Levin at a July 1 City Council meeting. At the meeting, council members called for an emergency ordinance to be drafted that could lead to mandatory masks within the city limits.

The police department has been tasked with responding to citizen’s reports of violations of Punta Gorda’s mandatory indoor mask policy.

In the three weeks since the Punta Gorda City Council approved the policy that makes face masks mandatory under certain circumstances, the Punta Gorda Police Department has received about 50 calls related to face masks, according to PGPD.

Most calls have come through the non-emergency line, but some people have called 911, according to PGPD.

One call related to a woman refusing to wear a face mask at a local hotel resulted in the woman being trespassed from the property, PGPD said. But the trespass order was the result of the verbal altercation that ensued from the encounter, not the refusal to wear a mask itself.

The policy aims to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 by requiring face coverings to be worn by anyone over 2 years old at all indoor public places within the city limits. Punta Gorda is under a public health emergency resulting from the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Of the 50 calls PGPD has received since the ordinance unanimously passed, 20 calls were to report people not wearing masks, and the other 30 included questions about the policy.

Officers’ responses vary by situation. For some citizens’ calls reporting non-maskers, officers responded to the scene. But in almost every case, the officers did not see anybody violating the mask policy, PGPD said. In other citizen reports of mask violations, officers called the business or establishment and asked management to handle the situation.

The calls mostly occurred in the first few days after the policy was enacted, and have slowed down since.

Failure to comply with the ordinance may result in a citation. The fine for a first offense is $25, a second offense will cost $100 and all additional offenses are $250 per offense.

Punta Gorda code inspectors and law enforcement officers have the discretion to issue a written warning instead of a citation for the first offense.

“Our goal has been voluntary compliance,” said Lt. Dylan Renz.

No citations have been issued thus far, as of Thursday afternoon.

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