Hillsborough Co. EPG reapproves mask ordinance

Hillsborough County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The Hillsborough County Emergency Policy Group voted 5-3 Monday to reapprove the mask ordinance currently in effect.

As of right now, 48,195 Hillsborough County residents have been tested for coronavirus, according to the Hillsborough County Emergency Management Director Tim Dudley. Of those tested, 14,677 tested positive, which officials say equates to 0.96 percent of the county population.

The county has also reported 158 coronavirus-related deaths, which is 0.01 percent of the population.

County officials reported during the meeting that the rolling 14-day daily positive rate is 20 percent, which is slightly up from 19 percent from Thursday.

Additionally, the Florida Department of Health Hillsborough County Director Dr. Doug Holt reported the seven-day rolling average for hospital admissions is 56, which is a 10 percent decrease from the previous seven-day period.

Dr. Jason Wilson, an emergency medicine physician with USF Health, reported that positive coronavirus patients that come to Tampa General Hospital and do not have existing health conditions or require oxygen are being released to help reduce the total of hospital admissions.

Wilson also mentioned the current youngest COVID-19 patient on a ventilator is a 26-year-old woman.

During the meeting, the EPG slightly amended the order. Now, individuals can be cited for not complying with the mandate. At first, the language said business owners instead of individuals could be fined or jailed.

After the meeting, the county sent the following information to 8 On Your Side, clarifying the revisions:

  • Business operators who make reasonable efforts to comply with the order will
    not be subject to penalties. These efforts include posting signage at public
    entrances, making regular announcements to customers over a public address
    system if there is one, requiring employees not exempt from the order to wear
    face coverings, and asking patrons not wearing face coverings to do so.
  • Individuals who do not fall under one of the exceptions listed in the order
    also can be subject to penalties. Previously, businesses were solely
    responsible for compliance.
  • The penalty for violating the order is changed from a criminal infraction, to
    a civil citation with a fine of $150 or similar fine in accordance with a
    municipality’s civil citation structure.
  • In addition to local law enforcement, local code enforcement agencies can
    investigate and determine violations.
  • Business operators or employees cannot ask for specifics or documentation if
    a customer claims an exception for health reasons.

Similar to Thursday’s EPG public comment, many residents spoke out during the public comment portion of the meeting.

“Regulations are choking our community.  It is choking our families.  It is choking our children.  They cannot breathe.  Everywhere we go we are required in a free country to wear masks.  That is not acceptable,” said Danielle Williams.

On the other hand, another resident praised the EPG for its work.

“You have always received, as our representatives, the calls from the people who disagree with the choices you’re making.  And that’s what you’re hearing right now.  What you don’t hear from is the majority of the people who are satisfied by the decision that you have made,” Jennifer Cantor said.

Some group members tried to make changes to the order, but they failed.

As for residents who carry concealed weapons, the County Attorney’s Office has confirmed that there are no provisions in Florida Statute 790.06 which prohibit a concealed weapon from wearing a face mask.

You can view the full EPG meeting in the video player below.

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