Hillsborough County’s Emergency Policy Group has adopted a mask requirement for businesses. Monday’s vote was 5-to-3. The penalty for business owners would be a second-degree misdemeanor that could include a fine and jail time.
For a while, the EPG was considering voluntary compliance instead of having an enforcement option, but that was taken off the table after a passionate speech by County Commissioner Les Miller.
Hillsborough’s mask requirement for businesses goes into effect at 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday. It does not apply to nonprofits or houses of worship.
Four members of the public spoke out opposing the county making a mask rule. One spoke in favor of mandating mask use.
Several of the doctors brought in by the Hillsborough EPC recommended mandating masks.
Dr. Seetha Lakshmi shared data showing that mandating mask-wearing considerably reduces the number of coronavirus cases.
The head of the Hillsborough County Health Department, Dr. Douglas Holt, said there is quite a bit of community spread of coronavirus in Hillsborough.
Dr. Holt said the number of cases increased by 4 percent over just the last day.
Mayor Jane Castor said the City of Tampa passed out 120,000 face coverings this weekend.
Pinellas and Manatee Counties will also consider masks this week.
Florida has passed 100,000 officially-reported positive cases of coronavirus. More than 3,000 new cases were reported again Monday. The rising number of new cases has prompted health officials to reissue advisories urging social distancing. Some businesses are also reevaluating their decisions to reopen.
On Saturday, Florida set a record high of 4,000 new cases. The number of COVID-19 deaths in Florida is now at least 3,173. part of an alarming surge across the American South and West as states reopen for business and many Americans resist wearing masks or keeping their distance.
Pasco Schools announced today that its superintendent Kurt Browning has tested positive.
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Below is information from Hillsborough County:
Hillsborough Emergency Policy Group Votes to Require Face Coverings Inside Places of Business
COVID-19 Coronavirus Update No. 147
Hillsborough County, Fla. (June 22, 2020) – A majority of the members of the Hillsborough County Emergency Policy Group today voted to require the wearing of face coverings, with certain exceptions, inside businesses that are open to the public and where employees and customers aren’t able to maintain social distancing.
EPG members voted 5-3 in favor of the countywide order after hearing presentations from several public health officials, medical doctors, and hospital leaders. The health officials expressed deep concern about a surge in community-based transmission of COVID-19 coronavirus cases, the trend that the majority of cases are now being confirmed in residents under the age of 35, and an increase in emergency room visits. All spoke to the need to take immediate action to contain the spread of the virus, and the effectiveness of wearing face coverings.
The order is effective immediately, with the exception of the enforcement provisions which go into effect at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, June 24.
The new executive order requires that all persons within any indoor location of a business that is open to the public in Hillsborough County shall be required to wear a face covering when not maintaining social distancing from other people, excluding family members or others residing in their home.
“Business” means any business entity that provides goods or services directly to the public. Business operators will be responsible for ensuring compliance.
The order provides exceptions for:
Children under the age of 2
Persons observing social distancing in accordance with CDC guidelines
Persons for whom a face covering would cause impairment due to an existing health condition
Persons working in a business or profession who do not have interactions with other persons
Persons working in a business or profession who maintain social distancing from another person
Persons working in a business or profession where use of a face covering would prevent them from performing the duties of the business or profession
Persons exercising, while maintaining social distancing
Persons eating or drinking
Public safety, fire and other life safety and health care personnel, as their personal protective equipment requirements will be governed by their respective agencies
The requirement shall not apply when a person who is hearing-impaired needs to see the mouth of someone wearing a face covering in order to communicate
The requirement shall not be applied in a manner that would conflict with the Americans with Disabilities Act
The face covering order does not apply to religious services, non-profit organizations, private clubs, and government agencies. The order will be reviewed weekly, at the same time the Emergency Policy Group reviews its declaration of a state of local emergency they declared in response to the pandemic.
In other action, EPG members voted to send a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis requesting he extend his executive order that allows local governments to conduct public meetings virtually.
The next EPG meeting is scheduled Thursday, June 25 at 1:30 p.m.
Get Connected. Stay Alert.
For more information on COVID-19, and any other potential emergency in the county, visit HCFLGov.net/StaySafe and sign up for the HCFL Alert system.
Additionally, you can follow Hillsborough County on social media at Facebook, Twitter, and Nextdoor for updates. For general County information, call (813) 272-5900, the County’s main information line.