Pinellas County commissioners extend local state of emergency, revisit mask ordinance

Pinellas County

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) -Pinellas County Commissioners are considering removing the county’s longstanding mask ordinance.

Commissioners met Thursday to discuss extending the local state of emergency, as well as rescinding the three-month-old mask ordinance.

The motion to extend the local state of emergency was unanimously approved.

The option was presented to set an Oct. 1 date to vote on the mask mandate, but multiple commissioners said they would prefer to wait for more information from public health experts in the area.

“If we were to consider changing the mask ordinance, I think that needs to be a regional decision,” said Commissioner Pat Gerard. “We have so many people that go back and forth across bridges or around the county, we need to have a regional approach.”

Prior to the Thursday meeting, Pinellas County Commissioners received an estimated 1,200 emails voicing their opinions on the mask mandate, according to Commissioner Karen Seel.

During the meeting, Commissioner Janet Long had reached out to the medical officer for HCA Healthcare hospitals asking for opposition to the mask ordinance. In her request, she asked to poll board-certified physicians with a specialty in infectious disease to find out how many of them agreed that not wearing a mask was a good idea under the current state of COVID-19 in Florida.

“Not one of them said that wearing a mask wasn’t the best and first defense against a virus like this,” Long said.

Pinellas County currently has the lowest rate of infection among the ten most populous counties in the state, with a rolling two-week average of 3% positivity

According to the Director of the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County Dr. Ulyee Choe, the county has been averaging between 70 and 90 new cases a day recently, moving in the right direction.

Across Florida, more than 3,200 new coronavirus cases were reported Thursday, along with 147 new deaths.

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