County sees positive outcome, extends face mask mandate

Manatee County credits mandated masks for lowering the curve of new local cases of the novel coronavirus.

“We have tourists there from everywhere and they’re all wearing masks, even little kids and people on golf carts,” County Commissioner Carol Whitmore said Sept. 15 about visitors on Anna Maria Island during a county meeting. “I’m impressed at all the people in the community and Manatee County that are actually wearing masks.”

County commissioners Sept. 15 extended the local state of emergency for another week, as well as an emergency resolution mandating masks indoors when social distancing cannot be maintained.

The resolution first was approved July 27 — amid much debate and citizen comments.

On the island, Anna Maria and Holmes Beach enacted citywide face mask mandates June 25. Bradenton Beach encouraged people to wear masks but took no action before the county enacted its mandate.

Holmes Beach recently extended its face mask requirement through Jan. 12, 2021.

There is no state or federal requirement for masks but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has encouraged their use.

At a U.S. Senate appropriations subcommittee meeting Sept. 16, CDC director Robert Redfield said masks might be more effective at preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus than vaccination, partly due to some peoples’ ability to develop immunity against a vaccine.

Redfield also said there would be a “limited supply” of vaccine November-December, with the second or third quarter of 2021 the most likely time frame for widespread access.

“Masks are absolutely helping us control the spread of the virus in our community,” said Dr. Jennifer Bencie, county health officer for DOH-Manatee County during the Sept. 15 county meeting. “We are absolutely, in the last three to four weeks, seeing a change for the better.”

Manatee County’s daily rate of positive coronavirus cases was 3.37% Sept. 16, when 54 people tested positive of 1,601 people tested that day.

The county had tested 25.6% of its population, 102,426 people as of Sept. 16, with 10,923 total positive residents, 781 hospitalizations and 277 deaths.

On Anna Maria Island, 27 people in Bradenton Beach, 25 people in Holmes Beach and four people in Anna Maria had tested positive.

There were four new C-19 cases on the island since Sept. 3.