Calling it a “radical infringement” of constitutional rights, the head of the Republican Party in Leon County teamed with a conservative state representative Thursday to challenge a local ordinance requiring people to wear face coverings to curb the spread of COVID-19.
“I don’t have a problem with masks. I have a problem with government mandating action in our private lives,” Evan Power, a Tallahassee lobbyist who is the chairman of the Leon County Republican Executive Committee, told The News Service of Florida in a telephone interview.
The lawsuit illustrates the partisan flashpoint created by face masks, despite the recommendations of public health officials in Florida and throughout the nation who say face coverings can reduce the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Flagler County governments and the Flagler County Health Department launched a campaign to encourage people to wear masks. The campaign, and a joint proclamation issued Wednesday by all local governments, stops short of mandating mask-wearing.
President Donald Trump has refused to wear a face covering and his supporters have embraced his stance, branding masks not as a public health necessity but as a government intrusion into personal liberties.
“Under emergency orders, we walk a fine line between what’s right and what’s wrong in intruding in people’s lives,” Power said.
Rep. Anthony Sabatini, a Republican lawyer from Howey-in-the-Hills, is representing Power in the challenge to the ordinance, unanimously approved by the Leon County Commission during an emergency meeting on Tuesday.
In a telephone interview, Sabatini denied that the lawsuit had political overtones.
“It’s a legal case,” he said. “I don’t really think this is a real emergency at this point.”
The county mask mandate excludes “business owners, managers, and employees who are in an area of a business establishment that is not open to customers, patrons, or the public, provided that six feet of distance exists between persons.”
The lawsuit alleges that the Leon County COVID-19 orders “have caused interference” with Power’s “personal liberty and business enterprise.” Along with lobbying, Power owns the Seven Hills Strategy Group political consulting firm.
But Leon County Commissioner Rick Minor maintains the mask requirement is justified.
“We’re in the midst of a global pandemic, and wearing masks to keep people safe shouldn’t be a partisan issue,” Minor, a Democrat, said in a telephone interview Thursday. “Instead of wasting the court’s time with this frivolous lawsuit, the Leon GOP should work with us to encourage mask wearing, physical distancing and COVID-19 testing. It’s the American thing to do.”
The Leon County ordinance came as the number of COVID-19 cases in Florida continued to skyrocket this week. The state added another 5,004 cases on Thursday.
The Republicans’ legal complaint cited guidelines issued by President Donald Trump’s administration on April 16, which advised that people “strongly consider using face coverings while in public.” The lawsuit also refers to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “phased approach” to reopening the state, which “did not include the requirement that Floridians wear masks in any setting.”
DeSantis, a Republican who has close political ties to Trump, has refused to issue a statewide mandate for face coverings, despite pressure from Democrats.
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the lone statewide elected Democrat, called on the governor Thursday to require people to wear masks in public places.
“Everybody should be wearing masks,” Fried told the News Service earlier this week.
But Power’s lawsuit questions the efficacy of face masks, pointing to a World Health Organization announcement this month that said it is rare that asymptomatic people transmit the virus.
“At the present time, the widespread use of masks everywhere is not supported by high-quality scientific evidence,” the WHO posted on its website on June 7.
The WHO’s conclusions cast “serious doubt on the rationality and effectiveness of wearing masks in public places,” Sabatini wrote in Thursday’s 12-page lawsuit.
The Leon County ordinance “is a radical infringement of the reasonable and legitimate expectation of privacy that most Floridians expect to have over their own bodily and facial autonomy in addition to their medical privacy,” Sabatini argued.
The ordinance also violates constitutional due-process protections because it is “arbitrary and unreasonable” and “is not backed by a compelling state interest or any facts proving such an interest,” Sabatini alleged.
The Republicans argued that the county has achieved its goal of “flattening the curve” of new hospitalizations related to COVID-19.
For example, only six COVID-19 patients were hospitalized in Leon County on Tuesday, the day the ordinance was passed.
The lawsuit also alleges that the ordinance violates equal-protection rights because certain government employees, including police officers, are exempt from wearing masks.
“No difference of risk or exposure and infection exists between those required to wear masks and government employees,” Sabatini wrote.
An injunction blocking the ordinance is necessary to “serve the public interest,” Sabatini argued.
“The citizens of the Leon County public are burdened by the over-reach of their local government unprecedented in Florida history,” he wrote.
–Dara Kam, News Service of Florida, and FlaglerLive
Once again, it is obvious that Republicans value partisanship over common sense and common decency.
Some things are bigger than politics. I have t wear a seatbelt, stop at red lights etc. Stop the political gain bs!!!
More Republican hypocrisy – what happened to the decades-long professions from Republicans at all levels of government of the sanctity of states’ rights…that the government closest to the people is the most representative? That local governments know best?
Percy's mother says
I was in Lowes this morning to pick up an order and also to browse around the garden center. Here are some observations.
Loads and loads of “elderly” out meandering around in the store and the garden center. I am not talking about retirees. I’m talking about elderly. Many of those elderly were “wearing a mask” down around the chin area, below the nose such that the nose was exposed and/or only covering the mouth. I observed one elderly woman, I would say close to 80, if not over 80, barely able to get out of her car and walk into the garden center. She was “wearing a mask” however only her lower lip was covered. Her upper lip and nose were exposed. This woman is most likely one of the commenters on this site screaming about everyone needing to wear a mask.
While I was waiting in line at the order pickup area, I was observing the staff. Several of the employees at the return desk and the order pickup desk were “wearing masks” but the masks were only covering their mouths.
Here’s my question, and one that the powers that be here in Flagler County AND Palm Coast need to carefully consider if moving towards a mandate for wearing masks: Please DO NOT.
Everyone can be mandated to wear a mask, BUT if a good deal of the population isn’t wearing a mask PROPERLY what’s the point?
By the way, I am strongly opposed any mandate for wearing masks here in Flagler County and/or Palm Coast.
Agree with you.I too am strongly opposed for a slew of reasons.
Angela Mahler says
So they don’t wear seat belts, stop at red lights, wear shoes to a restaurant? Totally absurd rhetoric from the cult of Trump!
As a Republican I do not agree with these legislators. Wake up! This virus is different. Wearing face protection should be required in all indoor areas. Let’s be proactive not reactive.
Agree Ron. Wear face mask, protect yourself and those around you. Its so simple.
Terrible! Government can mandate seatbelts, etc. There is no reason they can’t mandate something else that saves lives. This should not be about politics. I’m a Republican, but that makes no difference.
Robert Cuff says
I’m with Jerry
So when will the city mandate ‘face coverings’ in public? Or will you continue to play Russian Roulette?
This is the most flagrant example of irresponsible behavior from the elected official following a Republican Party zelot.
The Dude says
Soooooooo, let me get this straight. People are ok with the government telling them what to do in order to protect themselves (like wearing a seat belt) but when it comes to the government telling people what to do in order to protect other people, that is government overreach? Am I the only one who sees the problem with this?
Trailer Bob says
Sorry, but wearing seatbelts and stopping at red lights is not exactly the same as the mask issue. And actually, I wear my seatbelt, but one of my cars is old and never had seatbelts. I feel just as safe when driving in any of my vehicles, with or without the belts. And of course we all understand the importance of stopping at red lights.
I don’t think it is wrong or stupid to wear a mask in public and I actually believe we should be wearing them when in close contact with others, ie: in a bar or restaurant, or in a packed store or where there are long lines that are mostly static (move slowly). But I do not wear my “face shield” all the time. An example: when at my local watering hole our in the country farmlands where I live. Everyday the same people there and all are local, live in this farm country.
So yes, when we read the papers and see the news of people in large high population areas with teenagers and many very old folks, we get it. So I don’t believe that every situation or location can be considered to be identical.
My point is…not all of us who do not always were a mask or face shield or are “Trumpies”, stupid, or do not care for others safety. We have our own program out here and it seems to be working well, as no one out here is known to have the virus. So as far as that goes, yes…I feel comfortable taking the opportunity to freely make choices based on the situation.
No you are not, this is bigger than covid. Do we really want to go in the direction of the government controlling every thing we do and move we make. It starts little and then snowballs…. and we are already seeing some of those affects…..not sure of the answer, however; it will be impossible to make everyone wear a mask every time so in reality you have to worry about yourself; if you feel unsafe or threatened then unfortunately you will have to decide for yourself what level of risk you are comfortable with.
That’s how I see. I would bet the very same people not wearing mask, don’t wear seatbelts. I put to the invincible belief they have,” IT won’t happen to me”. .
Trump said he wouldn’t wear a mask because he wouldn’t look good and the media would make fun of it. He is telling his gullible followers not to wear masks because it doesn’t do any good and is an infringment of our rights. In the case of a disease like this it is NOT an infringement it is for the good of everyone. Just like the government banned smoking almost everywhere, for the good of everyone. These younger people who think they are being “put upon” and not obeying the rules, may soon be one of those who gets the disease and suffers. I heard on tv, 2 teenagers have already died of it. Maybe you people better realize that
Trump lies for his own advantage to get what he wants. He says the “virus is like a flu”, it will not spread, we have it under control, it doesn’t like warm weather, and will miraculously go away. Well none of those things has happened, so maybe he might not be telling the truth about not wearing a mask either. Possibly wearing a ventilator might be in your future. Who knows, the younger generation might wind up killing their own parents, children, friends or family by spreading the virus around.
The Masked One says
I want to know WHY all these Birds that fly around here, are NOT wearing face mask. And I actually saw a woman walking two dogs down my street and she nor either dog was wearing a face mask. What a disgrace. Scientist in WHO have determined Dogs, Cats, Birds, Squirrels, Ducks, Geese, Sea Gulls, Cranes can get infected with COVID-19 . I suggest putting signs on all trees, and fire hydrants that animals MOST wear a face mask in public.
Look at todays numbers, stupid Republicans. Wear a mask and save lives! It isn’t all about you.
Trailer Bob says
“Stupid Republican”? What the hell is wrong with you? If you think it is ok to call everyone who doesn’t consistently wear a mask stupid Republicans you are one of the causes that is doing much more destruction to our society than you realize. You just trashed every single person of the Republican Party???
You do realize that most of the young people who are not wearing masks are not all Republicans, unless you “know everything”, and you do not I assume.
You are one of the problems in our society right now. Hateful, call half of the population “Stupid” ?
Us intelligent people are choosing not to trash our fellow Americans over this. Sad part is that you actually believe this is a partisan issue? Pathetic and hateful. Hope that was you goal.
Only Me says
What is wrong with the Republicans that they continue to ignore the safety of its citizens? Do they not care about more people dying? Are they waiting until more people die and then they will have no choice but to shut down businesses again? They sure don’t seem to care yet they will beg you to go out and vote for them.
Awesome the more these Fl. Republicans do the more ignorant they look I am near lmao listening to this continued stance on RACISM C19, Protests healthcare ACA immigration Statues the list goes on. Your false narratives and lies are comical. Over a mask that helps protect eveyone?? Brilliant eont need to do situps for a week.
Facemasks to protect other human beings, now somehow a RADICAL INFRINGEMENT OF CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS.
Need some more proof a certain political party doesn’t give a crap about you or your loved ones?
Mr. Deeds says
“Republican Leaders” is one of the biggest oxymoron’s. They are not leaders. They are Trump koolaid drinking deniers.
Whenever I hear one of these old guard leaders on the other side talking about cutting taxes, when he knows it means weakening the nation, I always think of that story about the tired old capitalist who was driving alone in his car one day, and finally, he said “James, drive over the bluff; I want to commit suicide.”
— “A whistle-stop: Ypsilanti, Michigan,” Major Campaign Speeches of Adlai E. Stevenson, 1952, p. 210 (1953)
Jane GentileYoud says
I am an embarrassed Republican registered voter
To express your views to our local elected officials. . . Their contact information (NOT easy to find) is here:
Trailer Bob says
I will say this one more time because I think it is important to society in large. If you want to bash politicians on the left or right..fine. Please stop trashing your neighbors, relatives (yes), and people you have never met or know. All of us are not extremist. Matter of fact…MOST of us are not extremist.
Calm down and stop spreading hate and exaggerations..or you are actually a bigger part of our problems.
Mike Cocchiola says
I’m with Nikki Fried. She’s a leader and our next governor in 2022.
Why is it that when the Republicans don’t agree with the liberal left Democrats they are names and they are always disrespected. Lets look back at the Dumba** Obama 8 years. Someone tell me one thing the Democrats have done for their people in the past 11+ yrs. I can not find one thing they did positive in 11+ yrs. I can tell you that in the past 3 1/2 yrs. all they did is ruin innocent peoples lives with fake reports and wasted soooooooooooo much tax dollars doing so. Maybe the Democrats should start doing their job and not keep their temper tamptrum going. I have one discription for the Democrats that do not like Trump. CRY BABIES. They lost the election to a business man and they are about to loose it again come this November. I think I do know, that in the past 3 1/2 years while trump has been in office, they have done absolutely nothing for their party except make it look bad. I’m also sure that when Trump gets re elected they will continue to try and take him out of office. The best part IMO come November, Polosi and Schummer’s heads are going to explode when they loose again. As well as loose the HOR. The Dems keep saying that Trump can only win if he cheats. But they were the ones who cheated back in 2016 and they still lost.
As far as the masks go, If Gov, De Santis makes it manditory I will wear one. There are other ways to stop the spread without wearing a mask. First educate the elderly on how to wear one if they choose to. If they are wearing in a way other than covering their entire mouth and nose. They are wearing it wrong. I do not wear one because it’s not mandated. However I turn my head away from people when walking past then if I can not be 6′ away.
TRUMP ALL THE WAY IN 2020.
Gary R says
@TR – Excellent comment! Democrats and the media are cry babies for sure. Always whining.
Richard G Sweet says
Common Sense Person:
Hello to all who think they are capable of surviving a world-wide deadly virus pandemic without taking intelligent measures. As humans we have the capability of learning from the past mistakes of others. We have come through the Spanish Flu, Mirs, Sars, an Ebola scare and we are working on Aids. As a scientist and realist I feel, we need to look at the daily number of cases and deaths and realize this is not a joke. I too was a (younger) naive person in my past who thought I could defeat every disease in my body and learned that I had a better chance only through healthy cautions/activities. Please do not take this virus home to your family or “share it” with your friends. This is not a Democrat or Republican partisan problem, this is a life or death issue. Masks, sanitizers, social distinsing will help us kill this virus. We also need to be vigilant in our actions.
Lots and lots of numbers flying around. I’d like to know how many of the 127 million new cases in Florida yesterday were mask wearers? Certainly there must be scientists, doctors or public health officials who can answer this question.
I agree with Darwin.
And their “cult” leader calls for the assassination of Joe Biden and applauds a protester shouting “White Power” ! This is a description of the hate filled gutter trump is trying to drag our country into. . . take a read:
In one exchange — eight seconds into the two-minute video — a white man holding a sign that says “Make America Sane Again,” a reference to Trump’s campaign slogan, yells: “Where’s your white hood?” In response, a white man driving a golf cart with signs reading “Trump 2020” and “America First” yells back “white power.”
Trump retweeted the video, which was shared by an unknown Twitter user, and said, “Thank you to the great people of The Villages. The Radical Left Do Nothing Democrats will Fall in the Fall. Corrupt Joe [Biden] is shot. See you soon!!!”
“radical infringement” of constitutional rights, so what about the rights of those people around a person that could be infected ? I can’t wait for NOV to get here soon enough. People Vote and lets get these nutcases out of office.