Another Tampa Bay county, Hillsborough County will officially require residents to wear face masks in all businesses this week. The meeting was held on Monday, where local health officials and city commissioners discussed the issue of rising COVID-19 cases in the state. The mandate will go into effect on Wednesday, June 24 at 5 p.m.
The Emergency Policy Group gathered on Monday to vote on enforcing an official order to require protective face coverings across all of Hillsborough County. The group voted 5 to 3, passing the order. The mandate will be reviewed for re-approval each week.
According to the press release from Hillsborough County, there are quite a few exceptions to the ruling.
While the mask mandate applies to all for-profit businesses where social distancing cannot be enforced, if the business can enforce social distancing, then masks will not be required.
People with health issues exacerbated by the masks, employees who are able to social distance from others, as well as those who are exercising, eating, and drinking are all exceptions to the rule.
Children under the age of two, religious services, non-profit organizations, private clubs, and government agencies will also be exempt from the order. Those working in health care and other public safety positions will have their mask requirements dictated by their places of employment.
The mandate will also not conflict with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and is not required for people with hearing-impairment who need to see someone’s mouth in order to best communicate.
ABC Action News reports that Sheriff Chad Chronister expressed his concern and opposition against the punishment for not complying with the mask order.
While customers will not be penalized, businesses who violate the rule would be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor, with up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
“It will place local law enforcement in a compromising position to enforce,” said Chronister. “Has anyone considered the secondary effects for our state attorney, the public defender and judiciary who will have to prosecute, defend and dispose of these cases?"
After a three-hour-long discussion, the punishments were eventually kept in place. Commissioner Kimberly Overman also expressed that she felt without any consequences, the county could not move forward and be "back to square one."
#ICYMI: A majority of the Emergency Policy Group members voted to consider a countywide order mandating the wearing… https://t.co/5fVHNE54Wz— #CrushCOVIDHC (@#CrushCOVIDHC)1592526704.0
The remainder of Hillsborough County now joins Tampa, as well as St. Pete, Monroe County, Orlando, and Orange County with face mask mandates already in place. The Florida Keys will require face masks until at least June of 2021.
Polk County's Lakeland has decided against face mask requirements at this time.