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Firefighter Matthew Wickwire and Fire Lt. Brent Florea from the Englewood Area Fire Control District hand out free mask packets to businesses Wednesday at the Englewood Chamber of Commerce office.

OUR POSITION: Wearing a mask can save lives. We must do it.

Despite skepticism by some, who either are uncomfortable wearing a mask or who want to make a political statement, donning a mask can help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. It’s been proven. Wear a mask, social distance and wash your hands. Three simple steps that will curtail this dramatic spread of COVID-19.

So why aren’t we doing it?

A majority of Charlotte County commissioners Tuesday rejected the idea of an ordinance to require people to wear a mask in public. They did so despite the number of cities and counties in Florida, and the nation, that are deciding this is a step they must take to keep people from getting sick and dying.

We don’t necessarily disagree with the commissioners. Imposing a law to force people to wear a mask would be messy. How do you really enforce such a decree?

Sarasota County has taken the same approach with County Administrator Jonathan Lewis echoing the issue of enforcing such a law while urging people to wear masks and maintain social distancing.

It will be interesting to see what success other Florida cities have with these executive orders.

Right now, if you plan to visit Miami, Key West, North Miami Beach or a handful of other cities in South Florida, you better take your mask. It’s the law to wear one in public.

In St. Petersburg and Tampa it’s also the law, with some caveats. In St. Pete only employees are required to wear a face covering — although one store owner said 95% of his customers wear them also. Tampa gave out thousands of free masks this week and said if you are in an indoor setting and can’t stay 6 feet away from everyone, you must wear a mask too or risk fines.

The call to wear masks is coming from all directions — even Florida’s Republican Sen. Rick Scott, who said social distancing and masks should be required at the Republican National Convention next month in Jacksonville. That is a bit of a surprise considering Scott’s allegiance to President Trump, who refuses to wear a mask and discourages others to not wear them at his political rallies.

Since reopening Florida, with very few exceptions, the cases of COVID-19 have skyrocketed — near or exceeding 3,000 for several days in a row now. Many, if not most, of the new cases are young people. A teen was a recent victim of the virus.

We believe making a law to require masks is too difficult to enforce. But there is a way to at least attempt to have everyone mask up.

We believe business owners have to take the initiative. No mask? Then you can’t shop in my store. If every business enforced that ban, pretty soon everyone would get the message. And, even if they take the mask off when they leave, it will surely cut down on infections as people were in masks as they shopped together.

Masks are not expensive and there are several places you can get one free. The Sun has printed stories of free mask giveaways this week — and they are continuing.

If you’re tired of hearing about the coronavirus, then wear a mask, wash your hands and stay 6 feet away from others. Then, maybe soon, we can quit writing about it so much.


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