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Congresswoman Frederica Wilson

Representing the 24th District of Florida

Wilson Leads Letter Calling for Statewide Access to Free or Affordable Face Coverings

Jul 8, 2020
Press Release

Miami, Fla.Congresswoman Wilson led a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis urging him to make free or affordable face coverings universally available throughout the state. In the past few weeks, the rate of confirmed coronavirus infections has surged in Florida, making it one of the nation’s top five hot spots. On July 4, for example, the state reported a record-breaking, single-day high of 11,458 new cases and the daily numbers continue to climb at alarming rates.

“To combat this disturbing trend, at least 44 localities have issued measures strongly encouraging or mandating that people wear face coverings in public settings. We applaud these efforts and encourage similar state-wide requirements but encourage you to take steps to ensure that all Floridians, especially low-income residents, can easily access free or low-cost face coverings,” the letter reads.

The lawmakers are recommending that localities across the state provide automated face mask dispensers from which residents can purchase easily affordable masks, much like the machines in public building restrooms that dispense low-cost contraceptives and feminine hygiene products. Mask vending machines already exist in Las Vegas, Philadelphia, and New York City, as well as in several European and Asian cities. In addition to helping slow the spread of COVID-19, this also could provide business opportunities for entrepreneurs who have struggled to stay afloat during the pandemic and inspire people seeking to create a small business.

“More than 100 medical and scientific experts have called for requirements to wear masks in public based on overwhelming evidence that face coverings are an effective measure to curb coronavirus transmissions,” the letter continues. “Without such mandates, our ability to overcome this pandemic will be greatly impaired, which is why we must ensure that it is as easy as possible for Floridians to access face coverings.”

While the lawmakers strongly support mandates for people to wear masks in public settings, they believe it is imperative that instead of penalizing those who do not comply, police officers and others tasked with implementing the mandate provide them with a free mask, especially those for whom access and cost are barriers.

“In recent weeks, there has been a great deal of tension between law enforcement and citizens in several states across the United States. This public health crisis should be an issue around which all Americans can come together,” said Congresswoman Wilson. “Dispersing mask dispensers throughout the state will help us achieve that goal and cool down what has become one of the nation’s top hot spots.” 

The Florida lawmaker also is developing legislation that would federally mandate the use of face masks in indoor public settings and outside when it is not possible to maintain six feet of distance from someone who is not a member of the same household. The legislation also creates a novel grant program to provide funding to states to make available widespread mask dispensers.

To read the letter, which was signed by Representatives Frederica S. Wilson (FL24), Kathy Castor (FL-14), Val B. Demings (FL-10), Ted Deutch (FL-22), Alcee Hastings (FL-20), Darren Soto (FL-9), and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23), click here.