TAMPA, Fla. — Hillsborough County on Monday passed an order that will force business owners to require people to wear masks inside their public shops.
The order, which takes effect at 5 p.m. Wednesday, passed 5-3 after lengthy discussions in a virtual meeting of the county's Emergency Policy Group.
With some exceptions for people with medical conditions and children under 2 years old, the order will apply to anyone who can't stay 6 feet from others inside public spaces.
Business owners who don't follow the rules and ensure everyone inside their workplace are covering their faces could face a second-degree misdemeanor charge.
Hillsborough is the first county in the Tampa Bay area to implement a mandatory mask ordinance. The cities of Tampa and St. Petersburg both have mandatory mask orders, although they are slightly different.
In Tampa, if you're in an indoor public space and can't stay 6 feet apart, you must wear a mask or you could be fined. The emphasis isn't on the business owners.
In St. Petersburg, that rule applies to employees inside public parts of businesses but since has expanded to include anyone in an indoor public space.
Earlier Monday, Lakeland city leaders decided against making masks mandatory in the city.
Hernando County says is has no plans to discuss a mask mandate at this time. Manatee County’s board will discuss the possibility at 1 p.m. Tuesday, and Pinellas county will vote at 2 p.m. Tuesday.
Polk County leaders say they have no plans to require masks at this time, and neither does the city of Sarasota.
Elsewhere in the state of Florida, Monroe County Commissioners voted last week to require face coverings in all indoor public places until June 2021.
Also on Monday, Florida Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees issued a public health advisory directing anyone in the state to wear face coverings in places where social distancing isn't possible.
According to Rivkees' latest advisory, Floridians should continue to refrain from social or recreational gatherings of more than 50 people. At smaller gatherings, people should stay 6 feet apart and wear face coverings when possible.
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