"KEY WEST, Fla. — Rachel Kobylas longs for the days when her job as a code enforcement officer in the laid-back Florida town of Key West meant that she drove around making sure people turned off noisy power tools after 7 p.m.
She went after overgrown grass, unpermitted construction and boats illegally parked on the street. That all changed this summer, when her main challenge became convincing the tourists, bartenders, T-shirt shop sales clerks and fishermen who flock along Key West’s sweltering streets in shorts and flip-flops that they should also be wearing a mask.
And not just on their chin.
“There have been some really negative interactions,” said Ms. Kobylas, 35, describing the “series of expletives” she routinely confronts, particularly on social media, when she tries to enforce the city’s mask ordinance. “We do our best to be firm but fair and respectful.”
Key West, a city of about 25,000 on the southernmost edge of the continental United States, managed to hold off the coronavirus for several months after the county put checkpoints on the only road into town, keeping visitors out.
Since the road reopened on June 1, infections have leaped twelvefold. The rest of Florida has been gripped by the coronavirus, with more than 461,000 cases and over 6,500 deaths. Thursday was the third day in a row that Florida broke its record for the most deaths reported in a single day.
Yet the experience in Key West, which had made a living off providing a place to escape the world’s troubles, shows that while adopting state and local mask regulations may be politically difficult, making sure they are obeyed can be just as hard.
More than 30 states and an even larger number of cities have enacted a hodgepodge of mask ordinances and executive orders, but many municipalities are barely enforcing them.
Several sheriffs in Colorado and New Mexico have openly defied local rules and publicly refused to carry them out. In California, some city officials publicly warned of harsh penalties but now acknowledge that no one has been ticketed.""
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