Impassioned pleas from an infectious disease specialist from Cleveland Clinic to pass a mask mandate did not move Vero Beach City Council to vote on and pass a mandate ordinance this morning. Council member Joe Graves was against a mandate, with one his reasons being there is no science basis for it, in spite of warnings that the geometric growth of cases is in danger of overwhelming staff, according to Dr. Charles Callahan, infectious disease specialist at Vero’s Cleveland Clinic. Council member Robbie Brackett agreed with Graves’ position even though his father, Robert Brackett, is himself recovering from the virus. Council member Rey Neville, who survived COVID-19 coronavirus himself, spoke from home and pleaded for a mandate because of the geometric growth of virus cases here in Indian River County and if a mask ordinance was in place, the rate of growth could be levelled in 4-6 weeks. Mayor Tony Young said he was concerned about the severely fatigued staff at the hospital dealing with COVID-19 cases and “we cannot do nothing.” The City had already passed recommended measures previously, but with the surge of cases since Memorial Day weekend, stronger action was needed. As to the community’s divisiveness (apparently even in the waiting area for this meeting), Young said the divisions in our community are from many causes beside the virus and this cannot be an excuse for not doing anything. Council member Laura Moss spoke last, noting the potential crisis that could occur at our hospitals if the upward trend continues. Adding that a tidal wave is coming and masks will slow it.
A number of people spoke during public comments, primarily against a mask mandate as happened with the County Commission meeting. However, City Clerk Tammy Bursick added that City Hall has received about 400 written comments. She did not have the breakdown of for and against, but if the numbers are similar to written comments at the County Commission, they would be heavily in favor of a mask mandate.
Back on June 30, Council considered a mask mandate, but it failed in a 2-2 deadlock. Neville was at home recovering from the virus and had called in for the vote, but his connection failed before his vote could be cast. Had he voted, the mask mandate would likely have passed, assuming those who voted in favor of it without Neville’s vote would have joined him in voting for the mandate had his vote been cast. Council members Brackett and Graves were opposed on June 30 and continue to oppose it this morning. The other three Council member were in favor of it this morning as they were on June 30.
While elected officials have failed to pass a mandate, the business community has stepped in to do so. Major retailers including Walmart, Sam’s Club, Target and now even Winn-Dixie, are all requiring customers and staff to wear masks as are many local businesses. A local Facebook page entitled “Mask Wearing Establishments in Indian River County,” offers a spreadsheet listing all local businesses that require face masks and those that do not require face masks.