St. Johns County does not have a mask requirement. It has many.
With several retailers now requiring masks, mandates in St. Augustine and St. Augustine Beach and a face-covering requirement in all county-owned buildings, there are few public places left where mouths and noses may be exposed.
Last week, a slew of national retail chains imposed their own mask policies, drawing praise from some local customers.
“I think it’s a marvelous idea,” said one woman who declined to give her name. “I’m compromised immune-wise, and I really didn’t feel safe until the masks were required.”
Standing outside the Publix Super Market at Sawgrass Village, customer Kim Voss said she was glad the stores had taken the initiative.
“I think it’s important to wear a mask during this time,” she said, adding that the county should mandate masks “at least for indoor use.”
Outside the Pet Supermarket in Ponte Vedra, a woman who asked not to be named agreed with that but was not certain that such a mandate could be enforced.
“I just wish everybody would wear a mask,” she said. “I don’t think the government can do it, but we can do it.”
Another customer putting his groceries into the trunk of his car outside Publix held a different view. He said that only a county mandate would ensure that people follow the rule.
“Everybody ought to wear a mask,” he said.
The Board of County Commissioners has been resistant to imposing a mask requirement countywide, though it did vote Tuesday, July 21, to mandate face-coverings for all county-owned facilities.
Commissioner Henry Dean has repeatedly made motions to require face coverings throughout the county. But each time, his motion died for lack of a second.
Meanwhile, retailers have not waited for local governments to impose restrictions. Last week, Publix and Pet Supermarket joined other national chains in requiring masks for anyone stepping through their doors.
Stores that required face coverings already included The Fresh Market, Starbucks and Panera Bread. They were joined by Walgreens, Walmart, CVS and Lowe’s on Monday, July 20. Home Depot followed suit on Wednesday, July 22. Target announced that it will implement its own mask mandate beginning Saturday, Aug. 1.
On Monday, July 27, Winn-Dixie Stores parent company Southeastern Grocers also began requiring customers to wear masks. In a written statement, the company endorsed action by state and national officials.
“We believe that the enforcement should be placed upon our state and federally elected officials,” the statement read, “and we will continue to work with our peers in the retail industry to advocate for this sensible mandate to be passed into law to remove the burden from employers and their heroic frontline associates.”