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: 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. Polk County at this time has no mask order or recommendation. On its website, it does encourage people working in or visiting county buildings to wear a mask. Also, disposable face masks will be provided to customers who request them, as they are available. Hand sanitizing equipment has been installed throughout the buildings and will be available on customer counters. The city of Lakeland considered, but did not vote in favor or a mask order. For more information, visit Polk County's coronavirus webpage.
Manatee County: Manatee County Commissioners on Wednesday, June 24, backed a recommendation that says wearing masks and maintaining social distance can prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The cities of Holmes Beach and and Anna Maria Island, however, quickly adopted their own emergency orders requiring people to wear masks in public. Proposals by a commissioner to require masks failed to pass. However, face coverings are required inside Manatee County Government buildings at this time, according to the county website. 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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