With more than 200,000 cases of COVID-19 in Florida, governments across the state are looking at ways to stem the increase.
And some counties now are joining that call for wearing masks and maintaining social distance to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
CORONAVIRUS: Complete Coverage From WUSF And Health News Florida
But not every location is eager to make the recommendation a rule. Manatee and Sarasota counties are among the entities to decline issuing mandates.
Also, rules involving face coverings can differ slightly depending on where you are.
So, how are counties in Tampa Bay responding?
Pinellas County: Pinellas County residents must wear face masks or coverings when they're indoors at public locations. There are a number of exceptions, including for people with medical conditions. Parents or guardians have the discretion to decide for children under age 18. (It goes into effect at 5 p.m. Wednesday, June 24.) St. Petersburg residents also must follow a similar ordinance. For more information, visit Pinellas County's coronavirus webpage.
Hillsborough County: Face masks are required when entering a business in Hillsborough County – for both employees and patrons. The county’s Emergency Policy Group voted on some adjustments to the requirements, including the age of children exempt from the mandate. Non-compliance with the ordinance could result in misdemeanor charges. The city of Tampa also has issued its own rules. For more, visit Hillsborough County's coronavirus webpage.
Pasco County: A mandatory mask ordinance is in place now, and enforcement is effective 5 p.m. Thursday, June 25. Business owners and employees will be responsible for enforcing the requirements and making sure people who are not wearing a face covering do not enter. Masks and face coverings are also required in Pasco County government offices, and while schools were not included in the order, Superintendent Kurt Browning announced that the district will require them for employees and visitors. For more information, visit Pasco County's coronavirus webpage.
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Hernando County: The county website does not say masks are required, but it does recommend that businesses consult guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That includes asking customers, employees and employers utilize face masks when social distancing measures cannot be maintained. For more information, visit Hernando County's coronavirus webpage.
Polk County: On Tuesday, July 7, Polk County Commissioners unanimously voted to strongly encourage the use of cloth face coverings in all public places, but are not requiring it at this time. They also decided to purchase one million masks that will distributed free to residents. In government buildings, disposable face masks will be provided to people who request them, depending on their availability. Hand sanitizing equipment has been installed throughout the buildings and will be available on customer counters. For more information, visit Polk County's coronavirus webpage.
The city of Lakeland passed an ordinance on Thursday, July 2, requiring the wearing of masks within the city limits, according to CDC guidelines and where social distancing is not possible. Exemptions include children under 8, or for those with medical issues that prevent them from doing so.
Manatee County: Commissioners passed a resolution requiring face masks on July 27. It includes all indoor spaces. In June, the board declined to mandate masks despite recommendations from county health experts. The commission then went on a month-long summer recess. Since then, the Manatee County cities of Anna Maria Island and Holmes Beach passed their own mandates. For more, visit Manatee County's coronavirus webpage.
Sarasota County: The county has not issued any orders on masks at this time, although the city of Sarasota voted to require the wearing of face masks in public spaces. On June 20, the county shared the state’s Public Health Advisory recommendations that include:
- All individuals in Florida should wear masks in any setting where social distancing is not possible, unless any of the following apply:
- A child is under two years of age;
- An individual has one or more medical conditions or disabilities that prevent wearing a face covering;
- An individual is obtaining a service involving the nose or face for which temporary removal of the face covering is necessary to perform the service;
- An individual works in a profession where use of a face covering will not be compatible with the duties of the profession; or
- An individual is engaged in outdoor work or recreation with appropriate social distancing in place.
- All individuals over the age of 65 and all individuals of any age with high-risk health conditions should limit personal interactions outside of the home and take all measures to limit the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
- All individuals should refrain from participation in social or recreational gatherings of more than 50 people. For all gatherings of fewer than 50 people, individuals should practice social distancing by maintaining a distance of at least six feet from each other and wearing a face covering.
For the latest from Sarasota County, visit its coronavirus webpage.
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