Mask mandates confuse many South Floridians. Bottom line: Wear one.

The bottom line, local leaders say, is that wearing a face covering is important to public safety.

MIAMI – To mask, or not to mask?

That has been such a question in South Florida, where rules for face coverings can change with the zip code.

Tuesday morning in Allapattah, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez handed out donated masks. And he said a new rule mandating masks everywhere in public — the one he announced with more than a dozen other Miami-Dade mayors Monday — isn’t in force yet.

“I think the confusion is that we haven’t actually put it out yet,” he said. “We are in the process of implementing masks in public, so that order is about to be finalized.”

People out and about are definitely confused.

“You know what? I don’t know what to believe,” Jose Pardo said.

That fact is this: A simple nose and mouth covering is one of the three most frequently cited public health protections from COVID-19 — along with social distancing and hand washing.

“I’ve encouraged the locals to fashion those policies that fit their communities,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday, “and I think that they’ve done that.”

That’s where it gets tricky. In the mosaic of South Florida cities, county rules apply as a base. That generally means masks are to be worn when inside public places all the time, and also outside when social distancing isn’t possible.

The Miami-area cities had talked Monday about expanding that to require masks in public — indoors or out.

What are the penalties if you don’t wear a mask?

Violating an emergency order is a misdemeanor that, technically, could bring fines or even jail time. Local leaders say they’re not out to get people in trouble, they just want them to wear the masks to keep themselves and others safe.

About the Author:

Glenna Milberg joined Local 10 News in September 1999 to report on South Florida's top stories and community issues. She also serves as co-host on Local 10's public affairs broadcast, "This Week in South Florida."