WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Palm Beach County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday in favor of requiring face masks to be worn in public to help prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
The vote was 7-0.
Dr. Alina Alonso, director of the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County, said COVID-19 cases have "risen very, very rapidly" since the county entered Phase One of Florida's reopening plan on May 11.
"Our numbers are going in the wrong direction," Dr. Alonso said.
Alonso added that Palm Beach County is "above where we are supposed to be" under health guidelines.
“We have got to get these numbers down,” Alonso said.
Vice Mayor Robert Weinroth said he was concerned that a mask mandate would cause people to let their guards down and "give up on" social distancing.
"You and I need to teach them to do both," Alonso told him.
“We have got to get these numbers down,” Dr. Alina Alonso tells Palm Beach County commissioners during a meeting to discuss wearing masks in public, June 23, 2020, in West Palm Beach, Fla.
Alonso said she wears a mask to protect herself and others.
"The people are not the problem," Alonso said. "It's the virus."
Commissioner Melissa McKinlay also asked about why the cases in the western communities have skyrocketed. Alonso attributed it to "high density living quarters."
Protesters could be heard interrupting the meeting at times, leading Mayor Dave Kerner to threaten to clear the chamber floor if it continued.
During public comments, an overwhelming majority of speakers were opposed to a mask mandate.
"You're not listening to 'We the People,'" Butch Diaz said. "You made your decision."
Butch Diaz tells Palm Beach County commissioners they don’t care about “We the People” during public comments at a meeting to decide whether masks should be mandated, June 23, 2020, in West Palm Beach, Fla.
Diaz questioned what would happen if someone calls the police because someone isn't wearing a mask.
"You could have at least listened, at least faked it, but you know," Diaz said. "You already made a decision. You do not care about 'We the People.' It's pathetic. It breaks my heart, because I would die for that flag, I would die for this country and I would die for the Constitution. And you guys are supposed to uphold the Constitution. But, you know what? You didn't. You let 'We the People' down."
Florida topped more than 100,000 cases Monday. Currently there are nearly 11,000 confirmed cases in Palm Beach County, according to the Florida Department of Health.
Last month, the Village of Indiantown voted to require everyone where a face mask in public.