TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — States around the country started to move forward in removing mask mandates in March, but Florida lifted pandemic-related restrictions on restaurants, bars and other businesses back in late September.
Gov. Ron DeSantis also never required face coverings for the general public throughout the state despite backlash from adversaries.
Although there was never a statewide mask mandate, several counties and municipalities across the state, including in the Tampa Bay area, did issue local orders requiring face coverings. In addition, the CDC issued an order shortly after President Joe Biden took office requiring masks on all public transit.
Here’s where Tampa Bay cities and counties stand on mandating facial coverings in public as of April 6, 2020:
In Hillsborough County, residents and visitors must wear masks inside businesses where social distancing isn’t possible, but fines will no longer be issued.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor issued an executive order in late January requiring face coverings at many downtown locations ahead of Super Bowl 55.
Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County data released Wednesday showed that there were low numbers of coronavirus associated with official Super Bowl events, such as the Super Bowl Experience and the game itself.
Face coverings are still required in indoor public places in Pinellas County under an executive order that went into effect in June.
The Pinellas County website lists recommendations from a group of doctors and other medical experts on how to curb the spread of coronavirus in the community.
The advice includes continuing the mask mandate until there are no more than 30 new cases a day in Pinellas and a test positivity rate of 3% or less on a rolling seven-day average for four consecutive weeks.
There is no county-wide mask mandate in place at this time in Sarasota County.
The Venice City Council voted to end the city’s mask requirement on Oct. 31.
The Manatee County Commission voted on Sept. 29 to repeal the countywide mandatory mask mandate. While commissioners voted 4-3 to repeal the mandate, they did unanimously urge everyone in the county to continue wearing masks indoors when social distancing isn’t possible.
“The majority of people wear a mask not because of a mandate but because they know it’s the right thing to do,” said Commissioner Vanessa Baugh, who voted for the repeal. “It’s up to each business to enforce whether people should wear a mask or not.”
Bradenton, Anna Maria, Longboat Key and Holmes Beach have all enacted their own mask orders requiring people to wear masks in public.
While there is no countywide mask mandate, officials strongly recommend residents and visitors wear face masks and follow CDC guidelines.
In Lakeland, commissioners allowed the city’s mask mandate to expire on Oct. 6. But officials tell News Channel 8 they are still encouraging people to wear masks. Businesses are allowed to require face coverings.
The Lakeland City Commission voted unanimously on Jan. 19 on a resolution that adopted COVID-19 safety measures. The resolution went into effect immediately upon passing and is set to expire in 13 weeks on April 19, 2021.
Winter Haven’s face mask ordinance ended on Oct. 15.
As of April 5, face coverings are no longer required in Pasco County. Pasco County Administrator Dan Biles signed an executive order that face coverings would no longer be required in the county due to lower COVID-19 hospital rates and climbing vaccine rates.
Pasco County government said in a press release hospitalization rates for patients with severe COVID-19 symptoms had been steadily dropping for several weeks, increasing the number of available hospital beds for anyone who needs them.
Pasco County Schools will continue to require masks for all staff, students and visitors on school campuses and in district offices for the time being.
The county is recommending the continued use of face coverings in indoor public places. Face coverings are still required on all Pasco County Public Transportation buses, per Transportation and Security Administration requirements. Additionally, the lifting of the order does not apply to entities outside the control of the Pasco Board of County Commissioners, including schools and courthouses.
The county’s announcement only affects buildings and offices under the authority of the county.
There are currently no face mask requirements in Hernando, Highlands, Citrus, DeSoto or Hardee counties.