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Mystifying Mask Mandate Makes Key West Maddening

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File

Despite being unemployed for the last 14 months, I was fortunate to travel to Key West twice during that time. As it turns out, I went on the same week at the end of February in both 2020 and 2021. The 2020 visit would be the last time I would fly and be in crowded public spaces without a mask mandate hovering over me.

About a week after I came back from last year’s trip — the ‘two weeks to stop the spread’ lockdowns began. Part of me hoped repeating the trip this year would somehow “reset the clock” on our world and bring things back to normal. Silly me. In any case, this most recent trip was an interesting study in how absurd one city’s COVID mandates were — especially since they are the strictest mandates in the entire state of Florida.

I suppose I should briefly state my position on mask mandates. First of all, the state that I live in was relatively lax on COVID mask mandates (compared to Calif. and N.Y), and just recently lifted the statewide order last week.

I think mask mandates are stupid, imposed without good science or appropriate thought behind them, and defy the rules of human nature and biology. I have worn a face mask when required to enter a private establishment. I have probably worn a mask more than I have had to, but that’s okay. I do not see the mask mandates as a grand globalist scheme to control the population; I do think some states’ governors are enjoying their power a bit too much, however.

Finally, wearing masks alone in a car or while walking your dog outside is completely absurd with exactly no scientific rationale.

Which brings me to my recent Key West trip. Florida is one of 16 states that currently does not have a statewide mask mandate. In fact, Florida never issued a statewide mask order and last September Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended all fines and penalties for individuals who didn’t wear a mask in Florida counties that mandated them. DeSantis is now pushing the Florida legislature to remove all local COVID restrictions through state law.

You can decide for yourself, based on actual science and data, how Florida is doing in the fight against COVID without strict state-enforced mandates.

Now let’s focus on what I observed in Key West the last week of February 2021. Monroe County has a mask mandate that mirrors what I’ve experienced in South Carolina for most of the last year.

A Monroe County (Florida Keys) ordinance requires everyone to carry a facial covering capable of immediate use and requires that masks be worn when inside of a business and also outdoors when a social distance of six feet from another person is not possible.

But the City of Key West has gone much further with their mandate—further than I’ve seen from almost any other part of the country.

In the interest of public safety, economic stability, and long-term recovery, all individuals should reduce social contact to the greatest degree possible. Maintain at least six (6) feet between yourself and others. Please remember to wear a mask or facial covering at all times when you leave your residence.

That’s right: when you walk down the streets of Key West, even if you are six feet apart, you must be masked up at all times outside of your home. And the Key West Police Department has officers stationed all along Duval Street (the main drag) and they warn you to wear a mask if you try to walk in the hot sun by yourself with no mask.

I observed some very stupid applications of Key West’s mandate while I was there.

Walking on Duval Street, but you are seven feet apart? Mask up!

Bicycling on Duval Street next to another person? No mask required!

Standing at an empty bar? Mask up!

Sitting at a crowded bar? No mask required!

Walking on Duval Street during daylight? Mask up! (because the po-po are lining the streets)

Walking on Duval Street at 9 p.m.? No mask! (because the po-po left; I guess COVID is a vampire)

The absurdity of it all was on display constantly, especially considering that the police are prohibited from taking any action against individuals thanks to Gov. DeSantis’ Sept. 24 order. So here is how normal human beings are dealing with the mask mandate in Key West: If you see a cop, get your mask on. As soon as you have walked past, pocket your mask.

One very famous Key West drinking establishment only has their bartenders wearing masks with no crowd restrictions or masks required by patrons. Fine with me! It was very crowded and felt like I was in the halcyon days of February 2020. Another bar was acting like mask tyrants and not allowing anyone standing to shed their mask; you even had to sit to drink. Needless to say, that bar was empty every time I walked by.

The City of Key West’s hospitals and morgues are not overflowing and they never did fill up. Perhaps there will be a time in the near future that their mask charade finally comes off. Let’s hope more places think critically about what they are doing as well.