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Panama City Beach city leaders talk about possible mandatory mask mandate, closing a portion of the beach and more

Panama City Beach leaders talk mandatory face masks Thursday and they decide to close down a stretch of beach at night.
Panama City Beach leaders talk mandatory face masks Thursday and they decide to close down a stretch of beach at night.(Jarell Baker)
Published: Jul. 10, 2020 at 4:24 AM CDT
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG) -

Panama City Beach council members talked about a mask ordinance during their meeting Thursday and most of the council members do not believe the city needs to put one in place.

Council members say they believe the community can step up and cooperate voluntarily and put masks on when they are in crowded areas and cannot maintain a six-foot distance. Council members also say enforcing the ordinance would be tough on their police force.

“Please wear a mask. Please wear a mask,” said Panama City Beach Councilman Geoff McConnell. “That is something you need to do voluntarily. The government should not have to come in and tell you this. Our residents did a fantastic job voluntarily separating themselves and controlling the virus please I would like to see them do the same thing with a mask.”

City leaders approved an emergency ordinance to shut down a mile portion of the beach, between the Ocean Ritz Condos down to the Boardwalk Beach Resort, from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. at night.

Panama City Beach Police Chief Drew Whitman says “They will work to educate the public first but violators of the new rule can receive a citation up to $500 or be arrested.”

“What we’re trying to do is close down a small section of the beach where we have several hundred kids showing up around 10:30-11 o’clock at night,” said Panama City Beach Police Chief Drew Whitman. “It’s dangerous for my officers to try to get out there and break up the crowd due to COVID-19. We’re just trying to protect my officers down there and protect the crowd because the younger generation is closer than the 6-foot distance guideline. We’re just trying to break them up a little bit.”

Whitman said they’re planning to reopen that portion of the beach during those times in August.

City leaders also approved another ordinance that allows code enforcement officials to help enforce violations on double red flag days. Council members say code enforcement officials will help police officers, beach safety patrol and firefighters patrol the beach.

“They could write a citation up to $500 if somebody ignores the double red flag and continues to go into the water and put their life at risk and the rescuer’s life at risk,” said Panama City Beach Councilman Paul Casto.

During the meeting council members also voted to cancel the Summer Concert Series due to the rise in COVID-19 numbers.

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