Martin County residents encouraged to wear masks in public spaces

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STUART — Martin County officials continue to encourage everyone to follow the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. While Martin County no longer has a mask mandate, the county continues to recommend all residents wear cloth face coverings in public areas where they cannot maintain 6 feet of distance from others. Businesses also have the legal right to require masks inside their buildings and can refuse service to anyone who does not comply with their requirements.

According to the Florida Department of Health, since testing started in March, there have been 6,081 COVID-19 positive tests for Martin County residents, with 446 residents hospitalized due to COVID-19 and 175 COVID-19 related deaths.

Positive cases range from infants to age 101, split evenly between men and women. The median age is 42.

Indiantown continues to be a “hot spot” for COVI-19 with 1,018 positive cases in ZIP code 34956. The current population of Indiantown is 7,221, based on U.S. Census estimates. Martin County is home to an estimated 161,000 people, according to U.S. Census estimates. So while only 3.7% of Martin County’s total population has tested positive, 14% of Indiantown’s total population has tested positive for COVID-19.

The number of Martin County residents hospitalized due to COVID-19 has stayed fairly constant in November. As of Nov. 27, 20 Martin County residents were hospitalized due to COVID-19 and 21 of the county hospitals’ 22 ICU beds were in use. (Data available do not indicate how many ICU beds are in use by COVID-19 patients.)

According to the FDOH Martin County’s Nov. 24 update, Martin County hospitals currently have 31.8% of all hospital beds available. Martin County hospitals have 59 ventilators; as of Nov. 24 only six of the ventilators were in use.

On Oct. 13, Martin County Emergency Order 20-17 was approved, strongly encouraging people wear face coverings in public places. The county provided the following answers to “frequently asked questions.”

What is a face covering? What does it do?

Face coverings help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and help keep you and those around you safe. The use of face coverings may reduce transmission by more than 50%. Face coverings should cover your nose and your mouth and comply with CDC recommendations for selection, use and sanitization. Please note recommended face coverings are in addition to, and not a substitute for, required social distancing.

Who should wear a face covering and when?

Generally stated, face coverings are strongly encouraged to be worn by all persons when in an indoor public place or obtaining any good or service from any indoor establishment, and by all persons working in those establishments where the presence of another person is probable. These recommendations apply to all indoor public places and establishments, including businesses, stores and amenities.

All persons in restaurants and food service establishments are strongly encouraged to wear face coverings, whether indoors or outdoors, unless the person is actively consuming food or beverages or falls within another exception. Face coverings should also be worn by all persons when in any outdoor public place, business or establishment when CDC social distancing guidelines cannot be met and/or are not being practiced.

May municipalities impose additional, stricter limitations on face coverings?

Yes. Municipalities may have stricter limitations than the county. Any more stringent requirements imposed by a municipality are in addition to the requirements stated in Martin County orders and ordinances and as further explained in these Frequently Asked Questions. Please check with your municipality for additional restrictions.

What about at restaurants? Who should wear face coverings and when?

You are strongly encouraged to wear a face covering at all times when at a restaurant, including when entering, exiting and otherwise moving around within the establishment, except during the shortest practical period when you are actually eating or drinking.

For example, the face covering should be worn when arriving at the restaurant, while waiting to be seated (whether waiting inside or outside nearby the facility), while being seated, and when up and about such as to use the facilities. Face coverings do not need to be worn while sitting at your table. All restaurant staff are strongly encouraged to face coverings at all times.

Should I wear a face covering at the gym?

If you are at a gym or fitness center (including similar establishments, such as dance studios, yoga studios, boxing clubs, etc.), you are strongly encouraged to wear a face covering except when physically working out.

Should I wear a mask when I am outdoors?

Generally, no, you do not need to wear a face covering outdoors; however, if you are outdoors in a public place, business or establishment with other people and you are unable to social distance or you are not practicing social distancing, you are strongly encouraged to wear a face covering. You are also encouraged to wear a face covering if you are in an outdoor restaurant or food service establishment, unless you are actively eating or drinking.

Should I wear a face covering in a park?

Unless another exception applies, you are strongly encouraged to wear a face covering in parks whenever you cannot consistently maintain at least 6 feet) of social distance from any person who is not in your household or group.

Should I wear a face covering while shopping at a retail store?

Yes. Unless another exception applies, you are strongly encouraged to wear a face covering when obtaining goods or services at the grocery store, the mall or any other retail establishment. Please note that these recommendations apply both while inside the establishment and while entering or leaving the establishment, including while leaving for short periods of time.

Should I wear a face covering on the beach?

Unless another exception applies, you are strongly encouraged to wear a face covering on the beach whenever you cannot consistently maintain at least 6 feet of social distance from any person who is not in your household or group (other than when use of the beach or water necessarily precludes the wearing of a face covering, such as while swimming, surfing or otherwise exercising).

Should I wear a face covering at a public pool? While I’m swimming? What about pool staff?

Unless another exception applies, you are strongly encouraged to wear a face covering on the pool deck if social distancing is not being practiced, except when use of the pool necessarily precludes the wearing of a face covering (such as while swimming). Pool staff are encouraged to wear face coverings during in-person interactions with the public (except when deemed necessary to perform life-saving measures) and when they are within 6 feet of a person who is not a member of their household.

Should I wear a face covering at a marina? What about on my boat?

Yes. Unless another exception applies, you are strongly encouraged to wear a face covering at the marina and when launching boats whenever you cannot consistently maintain at least 6 feet of social distance from any person who is not in your household or group. Captain, crew members and patrons are strongly encouraged to wear face coverings on shore and on the vessel whenever social distancing requirements cannot be maintained.

My business is open. Should I wear a face covering at work? Should my customers wear a face covering?

Yes, whenever you could be within 6 feet of another person you are strongly encouraged to wear a face covering. Businesses should recommend that employees wear face coverings in the workplace. Social distancing of 6 feet should be practiced to the maximum extent possible, even when face coverings are worn. In addition, customers, clients and other visitors to the business are strongly encouraged to wear face coverings.

I’m getting a haircut, shave, manicure or other personal service. Should I wear a face covering if I am receiving a service? Does the stylist or service provider have to wear a face covering?

Yes, you are strongly encouraged to wear a face covering to the full extent practicable for the service required. If you are obtaining a manicure or haircut, for example, you should wear a face covering throughout the service. If you are obtaining a shave, you should wear a face covering except during the shortest practical period of time when the service requires removal of the face covering. Personal service employees should follow the requirements of any state regulatory agency governing their occupation, but at a minimum are strongly encouraged to wear face coverings when working.

Should I wear a face covering while at a hotel?

Guests are strongly encouraged to wear face coverings in check-in areas, elevators and all other common spaces, but not in guest rooms. All persons within the courtesy shuttle or in the business center are encouraged to wear face coverings.

Why does my child have to wear a face covering at school when the county’s order exempts children while under the custody of a licensed child care facility, including schools?

The county order does exempt any child while under the care of a school; however, Part 7 of the order states that the order does not govern the internal operations of the Martin County School District and encourages them to create their own internal policies for school operations.

Are there exemptions to the face covering recommendations?

Yes. Face coverings are not suggested for the following:

• Children under 6 years of age and any child while under the custody of a licensed child care facility, including schools, summer camps and daycare centers;
• Individuals prohibited from wearing face coverings by federal or state safety or health regulations;
• Public safety, fire or other life safety personnel that have personal protective equipment requirements governed by their respective agencies;
• Persons actively engaged in exercise and who are social distancing in accordance with CDC guidelines;
• Persons receiving goods and services from a business or establishment for the shortest practical period of time during which the receipt of such goods or services necessarily precludes the wearing of a face covering such as, but not limited to, consuming food or beverage or receiving dental services, facial grooming or treatments;
• Persons who have a medical condition or disability that makes the wearing of face coverings unsafe;
• When a person asserts he or she has a disability that makes the wearing of a face covering unsafe, a business may exclude the person as they pose a direct threat to the health and safety of employees and other patrons, and the business shall reasonably accommodate the person with a disability in a manner that does not fundamentally alter operations, cause an undue hardship or jeopardize the health of employees and customers;
• Persons who are assisting persons who are hearing-impaired or who rely on reading lips in order to communicate;
• Persons in private rooms of a lodging establishment, such as hotel, motel, or vacation rental; however, face coverings are strongly recommended to be worn in common areas as proscribed by this ordinance;
• Persons engaged in outdoor work or recreation with appropriate social distancing pursuant to CDC guidelines in place and being practiced.

I have an exception to the face covering requirements or do not want to wear a face covering, but an establishment will not let me in. What can I do?

A business may deny access for any legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason.

I have a health condition that makes breathing while wearing a face covering particularly difficult. Am I encouraged to wear a face covering?

No, Martin County Emergency Order 20-17 does not recommend that persons who have difficulty breathing, or for whom the wearing of a face covering is otherwise unsafe, wear face coverings.

I have a health condition that does not allow me to wear a face covering. Do I need to show medical proof before seeking access to a business or other establishment?

No, the order does not require that you provide medical proof of a health condition that renders you exempt from the recommendation to wear a face covering. Please note, however, that a municipality or individual establishment may impose other or additional requirements.

How should I discard my face covering?

Reusable face coverings should be properly sanitized after each use per CDC guidelines. Disposable face coverings and other disposable personal protective equipment such as gloves must be discarded properly in a waste receptacle.

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