Vero Withdraws Proposed Mask Regulation

VERO BEACH – The Vero Beach City Council on Friday did not act on a proposed emergency ordinance that would have established a registration program for businesses in the city that require customers to wear masks to enter the building.

After more than one hour of discussion, Councilman Joe Graves withdrew the proposal he had placed on the agenda, seeing there was no support for its passage. Vice Mayor Laura Moss said the city had received about 650 emails, many of those from local businesses saying they did not want the new regulation. Moss pointed out that the ordinance was unnecessary, as businesses already have the right to require customers to wear masks.

Councilman Robbie Brackett said he was against the measure because it would actually weaken the city’s ability to support businesses who require masks because it would insert exemptions into the mix and now businesses can call the police and have people cited with trespassing if they refuse to wear a mask. “This does not help the businesses,” Brackett said. “I don’t like the idea of putting more legislation on top of legislation.”

Graves said what he was hoping to build in the Vero community was “voluntary buy in” on the wearing of masks, because, he said, mask mandates all over the country are going unheeded.

Councilman Rey Neville proposed the city instead require businesses that do not wear masks to register and that the city publish a list of those businesses and that idea failed for the same reasons as Graves’ proposal.

“Moss said, based upon the feedback she had received from businesses, “They consider this to be a divisive act. We would be pitting business against business.”

To help local businesses cope with revenue downturns and extra expenses related to protective equipment and enhanced cleaning, Graves said he wanted the city to use some of its CARES Act funding to pay for masks and hand sanitizer for local businesses.

City Manager Monte Falls presented the city’s spending plan for CARES Act funding and said there is a provision to provide $5,000 grants to small businesses with fewer than 25 employees and that based upon his research, assistance to businesses seems to be an allowable use of the funding.

No details were given on how local businesses in the city could apply for assistance.

The city will also begin publishing daily messages about local COVID-19 case figures and about social distancing and slowing the spread of the virus. Those educational announcements will be distributed on the city’s website and on social media.

The council adjourned but was scheduled to begin its next meeting in conjunction with the Steering Committee on the conceptual plan for Vero’s riverfront redevelopment at 10:45 a.m.

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