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Hillsborough continues face-mask rule as coronavirus cases climb

"It isn’t a reason to let our guard down,'' said Commissioner Kimberly Overman.
Michelle Ingram, 52, distributes face masks to a driver in Lutz in June. Hillsborough County commissioners voted Wednesday to extend its emergency order and its face mask requirement.
Michelle Ingram, 52, distributes face masks to a driver in Lutz in June. Hillsborough County commissioners voted Wednesday to extend its emergency order and its face mask requirement. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]
Published Oct. 21, 2020
Updated Oct. 21, 2020

TAMPA — Facing an uptick in COVID-19 cases, Hillsborough County extended its mandatory face mask rule Wednesday.

The rule is contained within the county’s emergency order dealing with the pandemic, but support for the order no longer is unanimous on the commission.

Without comment, Commissioner Stacy White voted against extending the order for another seven days. White previously indicated he wanted to reconsider the county’s face mask rule, but did not publicly discuss the issue Wednesday.

Earlier, two residents questioned the order during the commission’s public comment period.

“I don’t know why you’re upholding what you’re currently upholding,” said Vic Amuso of Plant City, pointing to Gov. Ron DeSantis' order in mid-September that prohibited local governments from using punitive measures to enforce their mask rules.

Related: Two Hillsborough commissioners seek to relax face mask rule

But Dr. Nishant Anand, vice president and chief medical officer for BayCare Health Systems, and Dr. Douglas Holt, director of the state Health Department for Hillsborough County, both urged the public to continue practicing social distancing, wearing face coverings, avoiding crowds, and frequent hand washing.

Hillsborough County requires wearing face coverings when people are inside businesses if a 6-foot social distancing buffer isn’t possible.

"It isn’t a reason to let our guard down,'' said Commissioner Kimberly Overman. “I’m glad we’re seeing people are being tolerant of each other and of the rules in order to be able to keep our community safe.”

The county’s seven-day rate of positive tests results for the coronavirus bumped up slightly to 5.8 percent. The 14-day average had been 5.5 percent. The county is averaging about 180 new cases each day for the past two weeks.

The county also will close its testing site at Raymond James Stadium on Friday to avoid a conflict with a University of South Florida football game. The site will reopen Saturday and be available Sunday to make up for the closure.

More than 511,000 diagnostic tests for the coronavirus have been administered in Hillsborough, with the county’s public sites accounting for 23 percent of the total, said Tim Dudley, county emergency management director.

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