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In Broward County, FL, house guests must mask up

Broward County, FL has been hit hard by COVID-19. Cases are growing and ICU capacity is shrinking. So last Thursday, the county released a new emergency order. The order limits gatherings to no more than 10 people, mandates masks, and establishes a nightly curfew. But one section of the emergency order has turned heads: could Broward County really be ordering residents to wear masks inside their own homes?

Broward County Coronavirus Dashboard
Image: Broward County Coronavirus Dashboard

In Broward County’s Emergency Order 20-22 Section 4.A., County Administrator Bertha Henry writes,

All persons who reside on any residential property, whether single family or multi-family, and irrespective of whether they own or rent the property, must ensure that all persons on the residential property, including guests, comply with all applicable guidelines of any Broward County Emergency Order, including the facial covering requirement.

The way that order sounds, people must wear masks when on residential property. Many on Twitter expressed outrage.

What does Emergency Order 20-22 really say?

This afternoon, when I spoke on the phone with Lori Shepard, Media Liaison for the Office of Public Communications, it seemed like she wasn’t aware of a rule that said residents needed to mask up in their own homes. “If you’re in your own home and you’re with your family… the county is not asking you wear a mask,” Shepard said. “If you have visitors to your home, for persons more than 10, then they need to be wearing a mask.”

I asked for clarification, and Shepard read through the section again. She noted that the order actually limits gatherings to fewer than 10 people.

“If somebody comes into your house and they’re not a family member, you should ask them to wear a mask,” she said.

Emergency Order 20-22 appears to be an attempt to reduce the spread of COVID-19 through house parties and large social gatherings, not to restrict people in their homes. The County’s website reads:

The measures are designed to help curtail house parties, street parties and other large social gatherings that are contributing to community spread of the virus. Short-term vacation rentals are also impacted by the order, and there are new requirements for restaurants, gym and fitness centers, and operators and landlords of commercial properties that have retail establishments.

The messaging on the new order is unclear, however. It’s hard to imagine that the county intended to mandate that people wear masks inside their own homes with those who live with them. Instead, it seems from Shepard’s comments and Broward County’s stated intent that the emergency order is meant to curtail parties. So people must mask up when they have guests over.

Beyond that, though, we really can’t speculate on Broward County’s intent with this Emergency Order. County Administrator Bertha Henry and Mayor Dale Holness have not responded to our requests for comment. We’ll update this post if we hear back from them.


    • Cia

      Here in Columbia, Missouri, a mask mandate went into effect on Friday, ten days ago. I was a little surprised that it provides that if people enter your home who do not live there, everyone has to wear a mask. But that makes sense, I have no problem with it. So far our handyman, two people part of an agency which provides services to my daughter, and a computer repairman have come into our house, all of us wearing masks. I think this is what we all have to do. I’m not sure about the rules for college students sharing an apartment.

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    • woodrow

      We had two friends over, with the intent of sitting in the back yard to visit, where we had lawn chairs set up 8-10 feet apart. We felt masks would lot be necessary. It began to rain.  We repaired to the front porch to continue our visit, but the seating arrangement there was not optimum and we realized the next day that we should have all been wearing masks on the porch because the distances were so much closer.  We weren’t masked there because we were not wearing them at the start of the visit, and were continuing with same rules.  I think the Broward County ordinance is trying to offer guidance in circumstances where rules are unclear due to social pressures. If the county mandates it, then you don’t have to be the bad guy. It’s about fighting the virus. It is an unseen enemy that acts in unpredictable ways.  Guys, don’t fight each other – fight the virus.

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      • Cia woodrow

        I agree. Most of us are going to slip up. I have been super-conscientious about maskwearing, but about a month ago we needed to return an Amazon purchase, and it had to be at Kohl’s, not UPS. I was walking through Kohl’s when it suddenly struck me we were not wearing masks. This morning we were about to go into the health food store when my daughter held out my mask to me. I had forgotten it. We just have to do the best we can. The fine here for not wearing it if they decide to impose it, which they usually don’t so far, is fifteen dollars, which is not going to bankrupt you. But you probably wouldn’t forget again.  But it’s the principle of the thing. We need to fight the virus, as you say, and not each other.

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      • Paddy Osheas Cia

        Um, no.  You’re SEVERELY wrong about the punishment. states that “Residents who fail to ensure compliance with
        all applicable Broward County Emergency Orders by such persons shall be subject to the
        penalties set forth in Section 8-56 of the Broward County Code of Ordinances” which you can look up here which states the fine as “Violations. (1)Violations of any order promulgated pursuant to this section shall be prosecuted in the same manner as misdemeanors are prosecuted pursuant to § 125.69, F.S., punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not to exceed sixty (60) days, a Five Hundred Dollar ($500.00) fine, or both.”  So, based off the wording of the order and the wording of the punishment, they can charge “All persons who reside” up to $500 and send them to jail.

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