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Monroe Requires Masks In County Buildings As COVID-19 Cases Spike

An image of Monroe County Commissioner Craig Cates from a video the county posted to Facebook.
Monroe County
Monroe County Commissioner Craig Cates recorded a video for Facebook, pleading with local residents to get vaccinated for COVID-19.

Monroe County is now requiring people to wear masks in county buildings, unless they can socially distance.

COVID-19 cases have been spiking in the Keys, with a 22.4% positivity rate last week, according to the report released by the state Department of Health Friday. County officials said the county was averaging 74 new cases a day last week. Monroe Health Administrator Bob Eadie said 95 new cases were reported Tuesday.

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County Administrator Roman Gastesi strongly urged the commission to act to protect their employees and the public.

"Right now, the numbers are higher than they've ever been," Gastesi said. "We have to do something. It would be irresponsible not to do something."

Republican Commissioner David Rice says he's frustrated that the state is only releasing COVID data once a week, instead of every day.

"I feel like we have suddenly entered into the twilight zone where, because of decisions made outside of this county we're not able to share in current daily reports that allow all of us to work together to respond quickly. And this is a disease that acts quickly," Rice said.

Commissioners unanimously approved the new measures, 4-0. Commissioner Mike Forster was not at the meeting — because he's in the hospital in Miami, after testing positive for COVID-19 over the weekend. Forster has been vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to a statement from his assistant.

Mayor Michelle Coldiron read the statement from Forster's assistant, who said he was in stable condition at the hospital on Tuesday.

"On behalf of the commissioners, we are all praying for you, Mike. Stay strong for us," Coldiron said.

Forster is the second Monroe County commissioner to be hospitalized with COVID-19.

Last fall, Commissioner Craig Cates was in intensive care with COVID-19. His wife and daughter both died.

The county recently released a video of Cates on Facebook urging people to get vaccinated.

"COVID 19 was devastating to my family when there was no vaccine available. Now you have the opportunity to reduce your risk of severe symptoms, hospitalization and death if you contract the virus," Cates said in the video. "Please get vaccinated so your family doesn't suffer the losses my family and I have been through."

You can find more information on vaccine locations in Monroe County, and across South Florida, here.

Nancy Klingener was WLRN's Florida Keys reporter until July 2022.
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