Hillsborough County to defend mask order after lawsuit is filed

Hillsborough County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Hillsborough County leaders are prepared to defend the mask order after a lawsuit challenging its legality was filed, Commissioner Les Miller told 8 On Your Side.

Three days after the mask ordinance went into effect, the county hit a single-day record Saturday with more than 1,100 newly reported cases of coronavirus, according to the Florida Department of Health.

The Hillsborough County order requires employees and customers to wear a mask inside businesses and outside when social distancing is not possible.

As part of an amendment made to the executive order, the Emergency Policy Group said enforcement of the order will be placed on business operators, not the owner of the space in which the business occupies.

State Rep. Anthony Sabotini announced the lawsuit on Twitter on behalf of the owner of A Land of Delight Natural Farm and Market in Plant City.

“Such a regulation is outside the permissible scope of local government,” he wrote in the tweet.

The lawsuit argues the order interferes with the owner’s personal liberty and he has asthma, which makes it hard to breathe with a mask on.

The Florida Department of Health is encouraging the proper usage of face masks as a measure to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“We’ve advised that’s something that can make an impact,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday.

But when it comes to rules for wearing masks indoors or places where you cannot socially distance, the governor has left it up to city and county governments.

“You have seen some localities require and they’re gonna have to figure out how to use the long arm of the law to enforce it or not,” Gov. DeSantis said. “A lot of businesses will require when you’re going in and that’s fine.”

Calling Florida a new COVID-19 hotspot, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried has urged the governor since Thursday to make masks required statewide in public places.

“It’s foolish and selfish,” Immunologist Dr. Todd Brusko said of people not wearing face coverings.

The University of Florida Health professor’s father passed away in May after contracting the virus amind one of Tampa Bay’s worst COVID-19 nursing home outbreaks.

“Myself and my family when we walk around in public and see that, it conveys anger and resentment when we see people being not responsible with a very simple protective measure that is effective at slowly spread of a respiratory viral infection,” Brusko said.

Small business owners in Hillsborough County can request a one-time order of 250 reusable face masks from the county.

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