Palm Beach County “mask requirement” lifted using “projected” data

With the stroke of a pen from the unelected County Administrator Verdenia Baker and Palm Beach County still at a “high” transmission rate for COVID-19, the “Mask Requirement” policy was repealed on Friday, February 11, 2022, with an effective date beginning February 14, 2022.  This latest “Mask Requirement” policy has been in effect for 42 days and has applied to “employees and the public while in all county-owned and leased buildings.”

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With the latest trend of Democrat-run jurisdictions across the nation repealing their mask mandates in the last week, one has to wonder what influence that has had on the moving of the goalposts and justifying data that was once rejected for the recent repeal of Palm Beach County’s mask mandate policy.

This is the second policy on the mandatory use of facial coverings that the unelected County Administrator has issued on the public since Governor DeSantis signed into law Executive Order 21-102 on May 3, 2021, which eliminated any existing local emergency orders that placed restrictions on businesses or individuals related to COVID-19.  The Governor’s Executive Order was a temporary measure until SB2006 became law on July 1, 2021.

Since day one, Palm Beach County Administrator has found loopholes to Governor DeSantis’ Executive Order 21-102 and the Florida State Legislature’s subsequent revision to law in Florida Statute 252.38. Enacted in 2021, the new law limits the duration of local emergency orders to just seven-day increments, with renewal only possible with a majority vote of the county’s governing board, with an extension no greater than 42 days total.  Also, under this law, local executive orders could be invalidated by the Governor if the Governor finds that the executive order  “unnecessarily restricts individual rights or liberties.”

Beginning May 4, 2021, the Palm Beach County Administrator found loopholes and issued her first “policy” directed at the public for the mandatory use of facial coverings for COVID-19.  By way of making a mask mandate into an “administrative facility use policy,” it has slipped through the cracks of Governor DeSantis’ ban on executive orders that restrict individuals related to COVID-19 and the Legislature’s new law to limit such emergency orders.

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On December 30, 2021, the unelected County Administrator issued her second “policy” on the public entitled “Mask Requirement in County Buildings” to allow government business to remain open and slow the spread of COVID-19.  At the time of issuance and for the remainder of its duration, the county never declared a State of Emergency for COVID-19. The County Administrator enacted this latest “policy” in violation of Florida Statute 125.74 because she did not get direction from the policy-setting governing board of the county (County Commissioners) to make a policy onto the public, and instead did so “at her own discretion” according to an official record request response from the county.

Notably, the County Administrator has inconsistently applied goals to repeal her mask mandate policies.  During a November 2, 2021 meeting, Commissioner Weinroth made a motion to the board to end the administrator’s mask mandate policy on the public. Verdenia Baker countered his request to end her policy by asking to keep the mask mandate policy in place until “moderate” levels of transmission were achieved for two weeks, according to CDC definitions.  A 7-0 vote granted the County Administrator’s wishes, with County Commissioners giving her direction to lift the mask mandate policy once her preferred goals were met.  That policy was then repealed on November 16, 2021, after reaching the goal of “moderate” transmission and a positivity rate under 5%.  However, for the most recent “Mask Requirement” policy enacted on January 3, 2020, the unelected County Administrator worked behind closed doors in consultation with Dr. Alonso and wrote this statement in the repeal of the policy:

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The county administrator is using a goal for positivity rate of “approximately 10%,” which is not even an actual reported number; instead, it’s a number she “projected” herself; at best, it’s a guess.  So why has the County Administrator changed the goalposts and deviated from previous benchmarks to repeal her previous mask policy from November 2021?  As an unelected staff member working behind closed doors, the public has not been able to engage in the decision-making of the health policy that affects our lives.

The latest data on the CDC COVID Data Tracker shows Palm Beach County to be in the category of “High” transmission risk with 375 cases per 100,000 people.  This is the highest of the four levels.  Just three months ago, this level, and even the level below this one, was not viewed favorably by the county administrator to remove the mask mandate policy.

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Also, three months ago, both Dr. Alonso and Verdenia Baker claimed the daily positivity rate had to be under 5% as part of their decision-making for the mask policy removal in addition to a transmission rate at “moderate” according to the CDC.

Fast-forward to now, and the positivity rate is at 13.46% on the CDC COVID Data Tracker for Palm Beach County, in addition to a “high” level of transmission risk.  The current positivity rate is over double the goal used by the duo back in November to repeal the previous mask mandate policy and still higher than the County Admin’s

“projected” 10%. So the goalposts have changed. 

Be sure to read: Resident questions legality and inclusiveness of County’s mask policy

Be sure to read: PBC Jolt Exclusive: Sheriff Ric Bradshaw to run for Reelection

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