State Watch

Palm Beach residents sue county over mandate requiring people wear masks

A group of four Palm Beach County residents on Wednesday filed a lawsuit challenging a county policy that requires people to wear masks in public to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The suit, filed in Florida state court, alleges that the county policy infringes on the plaintiffs’ constitutionally protected rights by forcing them to wear “harmful medical devices like masks” and asks the court to issue an injunction blocking its enforcement.

“Despite having no authority, actual or apparent, under Florida law to do so, Defendant has recklessly required countless American citizens and Florida residents… to submit to dangerous medical treatments with well-known risks and potential for serious injuries and death,” the complaint alleges. 

The legal action comes as state and federal leaders begin pushing more aggressively for Americans to practice social distancing and wear face masks in public. Amid rising coronavirus cases in Florida, Palm Beach County commissioners on June 23 unanimously approved an executive order requiring people to wear face masks while in public.

The order is set to be in place indefinitely, CBS 12 news reported last week. Violating the order could reportedly result in a civil citation or a fine.

The complaint against the order was filed on behalf of Josie Machovec, Carl Holme, Rachel Eade and Robert Spreitzer, four Palm Beach County residents who say the new policy infringes on their constitutional rights to “life and liberty,” among other things.

The lawsuit argues that the CDC recommendations for wearing facial coverings in public do not have influence over state or federal law, saying they must be in accordance with the Florida and U.S. constitutions. It also claims that there isn’t conclusive evidence that masks help combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Before the lawsuit was filed, Palm Beach County Attorney Denise Nieman said that the county had the authority to implement appropriate measures in the name of public health and safety, according to The Palm Beach Post.

Several county residents last week spoke out about the possibility of a mask mandate during a public comment session for a Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners meeting. In videos that spread across social media, attendees warned that the mandate would amount to the “devil’s law” and a measure that “goes against the freedom of choice.”

One attendee said she was “very sad to see the authorities stomping on our constitutional rights,” adding, “they want to throw God’s wonderful breathing system out the door,” a local CBS affiliate reported.

As of Wednesday, Florida health authorities had reported roughly 159,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 3,500 deaths in the state. Palm Beach County has reported more than 14,000 virus case and about 500 deaths.

The county logged 641 confirmed cases on June 25, the highest single-day total since the outbreak first hit the U.S.


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