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Hillsborough again extends face mask rule

The Emergency Policy Group vote comes amid data showing a drop in rate of positive test results
Vicki Apple, 58, of Lutz, is reflected in her mirror as Michelle Ingram, 52, hands Apple 10 masks at Lake Park on June 24. The Hillsborough County Emergency Policy Group voted Monday to extend the county's facial covering rule for another seven days.
Vicki Apple, 58, of Lutz, is reflected in her mirror as Michelle Ingram, 52, hands Apple 10 masks at Lake Park on June 24. The Hillsborough County Emergency Policy Group voted Monday to extend the county's facial covering rule for another seven days. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]
Published Jul. 20, 2020
Updated Jul. 20, 2020

TAMPA — The rate of positive coronavirus test results in Hillsborough County continues to drop, the top state health official in the county said Monday.

The seven-day rolling average of positive test results is 14.5 percent, “again a steady decrease,” said Dr. Douglas Holt, director of the state Health Department for Hillsborough County.

Last week, the 14-day average stood at 16.16 percent after reaching a previous high of 20 percent.

In comments to the Hillsborough Emergency Policy Group, Holt repeated his prior observations that “community-based transmission is widespread and very active” and “we need our public to continue acceptable practices that we’ve asked.”

Toward that goal, the policy group voted to extend the county’s face-mask rule for another seven days. The 5-3 vote mirrored prior results, with Sheriff Chad Chronister, Plant City Mayor Rick Lott and School Board Chairwoman Melissa Snively dissenting.

The extension was expected and came after the Hillsborough County Commission approved its own mask rule last week, and large-scale retailers Walmart and Publix announced customers must wear masks while shopping inside their stores.

Still, the vocal public criticism of the Emergency Policy Group continued Monday from three callers at the outset of the meeting.

“You’ve created a lose-lose situation for businesses,‘' said resident Tom Odom.

The discussion came after the state Health Department’s latest data showed Hillsborough County had surpassed 24,000 total coronavirus cases Monday with 429 new cases reported. To date, 246 people have died, and 991 patients have been hospitalized.

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