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Masks no longer required to enter Florida courthouses

But masks and social distancing are still required to enter courtrooms, says the chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court.
Seating for potential jurors in October at the start of the murder trial of defendant Erin Lee Robinson at the George Edgecomb Courthouse, Tampa can be seen. The trial was the first in Hillsborough County since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Potential jurors were socially distanced and wore protective face coverings.
Seating for potential jurors in October at the start of the murder trial of defendant Erin Lee Robinson at the George Edgecomb Courthouse, Tampa can be seen. The trial was the first in Hillsborough County since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Potential jurors were socially distanced and wore protective face coverings. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]
Published May 6
Updated May 6

Those entering a courthouse in Florida will no longer be required to wear a mask or undergo temperature checks or health screenings to check for signs of the coronavirus.

However, masks and social distancing will still be required in courtrooms, the Florida Supreme Court announced Thursday.

“The changes I make today reflect the current state of the pandemic,” Chief Justice Charles Canady said in a statement released Thursday, “while maintaining appropriate safeguards as we move toward the time when all Floridians eligible for vaccination will have had the opportunity to become fully vaccinated.”

Related: Jurors return to Tampa courtrooms with masks, sanitizer, distance

The lifting of restrictions marks the first major step toward the normal resumption of courthouse operations. As the pandemic swept through Florida last year, many court proceedings moved online to Zoom, and some, such as jury trials, were canceled altogether.

Jury trials have since resumed in most judicial circuits, including Hillsborough and Pinellas-Pasco. In February, the Florida Supreme Court also authorized some jury trials to take place virtually.

The chief judge’s decision comes two days after Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order suspending local mask mandates and pandemic restrictions imposed by city and county governments. Private businesses can still require masks. School districts and state courts were not affected by the governor’s order.

In his announcement Thursday, the chief judge hinted at more changes to come as the severity of the pandemic recedes.

“I expect that in the not-too-distant future,” Canady said, “modifications of the protocols now in place for in-person court proceedings will be adopted so that we can move our court rooms back to more normal operations.”