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Hillsborough Commission Wants Masks For Outdoor Dining, Drinking

Waitress with a mask disinfects the table
Michele Ursi/Getty Images
iStock photo
Waitress with a mask disinfects the table of an outdoor bar

Hillsborough County Commissioners voted to recommended that anyone eating or drinking at outdoor restaurants and bars wear a mask.

Hillsborough County Commissioners on Thursday tightened a rule to help prevent the spread of coronavirus in the days leading up to the Super Bowl on Feb. 7.

They voted to have restaurants and bars request their customers wear face masks while they're outdoors. A similar rule was already in place for eating and drinking indoors.

Commissioner Kimberly Overman made it a "recommendation" after it appeared her motion to make it a county ordinance wouldn't get enough votes to pass. The board instead voted to "strongly encourage" patrons to wear masks at outdoor restaurants and bars.

"This will not shut businesses down. This will not stop parties for the Super Bowl," Overman said. "This will just allow people to be safe when they are in a position to remove their masks for eating and drinking."

Commissioner Pat Kemp was in favor of the move.

"Just discussing this, and thinking about this, and putting this forward I think will be another benefit - saving lives, as we've all pointed out," she said."

But Commissioner Harry Cohen said it would be difficult to enforce.

"I just don't want to take the step of having a further mandate that applies outdoors," Cohen said. "I think it may have the opposite effect of undermining our credibility on the entire program."

Graphic of COVID-19 cases in Hillsborough County
Hillsborough County
Graphic of COVID-19 cases in Hillsborough County

Hillsborough is quickly approaching 95,000 positive cases of coronavirus and as of Thursday, 1,215 people have died in the county since March from complications related to COVID-19.

The Florida Department of Health has reported an average of more than 14,000 thousand new positive coronavirus cases a day since the start of January.

The state had also posted an average of 153 deaths a day since the start of the month.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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