UPDATE April 21, 2021 - PBC School Board meeting, video on how to be compliant to the District policy when wearing a mask CLICK HERE.
Are the County officials knowingly and willfully misleading the businesses of Palm Beach County when it comes to the County’s Covid-19 mandates?
Per a County document, the County officials state that there is no longer a penalty to individuals and businesses for violations regarding Covid-19. From about September 21, 2020 to the present, the County has not issued any fines to businesses for noncompliance, either.
According to the Palm Beach County Covid Education and Compliance Team’s spreadsheet of violations CLICK HERE (also available from the County by a public records request) County officials acknowledge that Governor DeSantis suspended fines and penalties on businesses related to Covid-19 restrictions per Order 2020-244 made on September 25, 2020. Despite the fact that they are no longer issuing fines, the County continues to publicly threaten all businesses with the idea that they will be fined if not compliant with the facial mask and social distancing mandates. The Compliance Team continues to patrol the businesses of Palm Beach County as if a fine is imminent.
The document shows comments such as, “Order 2020-244 suspends all outstanding fines and penalties, and the collection of such moving forward, applied against individuals and business as it relates to COVID-19 mask use and physical distancing” and “Not currently issuing mask fines due to State EO 244.” These comments are used as “closing comments” of the cases, citing the Governor’s Order. CLICK HERE to see a screenshot of the spreadsheet.
The County’s message to the public, however, has been the opposite. Deputy County Administrator, Jon Van Arnam, told the public on September 28, 2020 that “We can still enforce [the mandate] on businesses.” CLICK HERE Commissioner McKinlay on February 19, 2021 told the public via video that “…it [the Governor’s mandate] does not prevent us from enforcing this mask mandate on the owners of the businesses where these violations are taking place.” CLICK HERE Other news sources have given updates that inform the public of the ongoing threat of fines on businesses. CLICK HERE (See the update given on September 30, 2020.)
Despite the County officials’ public announcements of their authority to fine businesses, it is very clear by their document that they have not been permitted by the Governor’s orders to enforce the mandate on businesses since September 25, 2020.
A Little More Detail:
Not only does the documentation reveal that the Compliance Team has been quietly following the Governor’s order since September 25, 2020, but strangely, the Team uses Order 2020-244 as a closing comment on cases that were made in July, two months prior to the Governor’s Order.
Similarly, the reason of the county being in “Phase 3” was used hundreds of times when closing cases that occurred well before the actual date of Phase 3 which was also September 25, 2020. The record does not provide an explanation as to why some businesses were afforded their case being closed, up to two months prior to the actual date of the Governor’s Order, while other businesses were fined.
One Final Point - Religious Centers:
The Compliance Team responded to a complaint about a Jewish Center not wearing masks by citing, “Mask use cannot be enforced in religious centers, worship centers, or spaces reserved for the practice of religion.” (See line item 8176) While many religious centers in the county believe that the mandate applies to all indoor places in Palm Beach County, it is apparent by the County documentation that it does not.
Hint: When searching the County’s spreadsheet, use short terms like “244” or “phase 3” to find similar entries.
UPDATE April 8, 2021
1. I spoke at the County Commission meeting on April 6, 2021 about the above information and the County Administrator responded to me, confirming that there are, indeed, no fines on businesses.
"The mask mandate is still in order. We still require businesses to do what they're supposed to...But if it comes to fining, the governor's orders simply said we could not collect."
While Ms. Baker minces words, that it's allowable for the County to send out their Compliance Team to harrass businesses, and even to issue "warnings" it is clear that no fines will be collected for non-compliance. CLICK HERE to see the video of Ms. Baker.
2. On March 20, 2021, Commissioner Weinroth sent an email to a constituent which states, "It's your choice - take precautions...or...ignore the mandate." While it is commendable that Mr. Weinroth shared this information with his constituent, he did not share this information with the public. CLICK HERE to see a screenshot of the email.
Karen Holme, Truth Seeker
March 26, 2021