Advertisement
  1. News
  2. /
  3. Health

Hillsborough Commission to residents: COVID-19 safety is up to you

Commissioners heard Wednesday the county’s rate of COVID-19 cases is the highest in the Tampa Bay region.
Hillsborough County's ordinance protecting employees from work-place retribution if they choose to wear masks while on duty remains in effect and was not changed by Gov. Ron DeSantis' executive order eliminating local face-mask requirements. Shown are workers at  Poppo's Taqueria St. Petersburg.
Hillsborough County's ordinance protecting employees from work-place retribution if they choose to wear masks while on duty remains in effect and was not changed by Gov. Ron DeSantis' executive order eliminating local face-mask requirements. Shown are workers at Poppo's Taqueria St. Petersburg. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published May 5
Updated May 5

TAMPA — For nearly a year, some Hillsborough residents routinely asked the county commission to rescind its face covering requirement adopted to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

“We the people are responsible for our own personal health,” Diana Cline, a frequent critic of the county’s mask rules, said Wednesday.

Now that Gov. Ron DeSantis has voided the county’s face covering mandate, commissioners offered their own message to those residents: We’re counting on you to do just that.

“Only you know if you’ve been vaccinated. Only you know if you’ve been exposed. You know your own level of risk and what risk you are comfortable taking. We really are now going to depend on individuals to make the right choice for themselves and the community,” said Commissioner Harry Cohen.

His comments came Wednesday after commissioners heard the county’s rate of COVID-19 cases is the highest in the Tampa Bay region while demand for vaccinations is falling and the number of diagnostic tests being administered is not meeting established goals.

The county is averaging approximately 400 new cases per day, a rate that has been steady for several months. Over the past two weeks, the rate of positive diagnostic tests was 9.46 percent.

“That’s where we’ve been in that wide, sustained community-based transmission for about five months now,” said Dr. Douglas Holt, director of the state Health Department in Hillsborough County.

The data showed Hillsborough’s infection rate is 30 cases per 100,000 people, twice the rate in neighboring Pinellas County.

“It is not a time to let our guard down,” said Commissioner Kimberly Overman. noting the face mask mandate went away, but not recommended protocols to social distance, wear masks and wash your hands frequently.

Eleven months ago, the county adopted a requirement for face masks to be worn inside of businesses when social distancing wasn’t possible. Later, the governor said local governments couldn’t penalize individuals who refused to comply. On Monday, DeSantis signed an executive order voiding face mask mandates and other restrictions contained in local emergency orders dealing with COVID-19.

However, the executive order does not apply to a separate county ordinance that protects employees from work-place retribution if they choose to wear a mask at their place of employment.

• • •

Tampa Bay Times coronavirus coverage

CORONAVIRUS IN FLORIDA: Find the latest numbers for your county, city or zip code.

NEED A VACCINE? Here's how to find one in the Tampa Bay area and Florida.

VACCINES Q & A: Have coronavirus vaccine questions? We have answers, Florida.

GET THE DAYSTARTER MORNING UPDATE: Sign up to receive the most up-to-date information.

GET THE DAYSTARTER MORNING UPDATE: Sign up to receive the most up-to-date information.

A TRIBUTE TO THE FLORIDIANS TAKEN BY THE CORONAVIRUS: They were parents and retirees, police officer and doctors, imperfect but loved deeply.

HAVE A TIP?: Send us confidential news tips

We’re working hard to bring you the latest news on the coronavirus in Florida. This effort takes a lot of resources to gather and update. If you haven’t already subscribed, please consider buying a print or digital subscription.