NEW PORT RICHEY — After Pasco County Commissioner Jack Mariano learned that his father John Mariano, Sr., had tested positive for the coronavirus last week, he decided to take a COVID-19 test. Over the weekend, he got back a positive test result.
Out of an abundance of caution, Mariano said he did not spend Thanksgiving with his parents for the first time in years but did see his dad briefly several days ago before he started to show symptoms. Mariano said that if COVID-19 is like the flu, “it’s the best flu I’ve ever had” because he is showing only minor symptoms. His father is “probably struggling with it a little more,” he said, but did not elaborate.
The illness might have another unfortunate effect. He said while the family is playing it by ear, he wasn’t sure whether the coronavirus might impact the wedding of his daughter Amber next weekend. Amber Mariano, who is the state representative from District 36, has tested negative for the coronavirus at this point, her father said.
Mariano has been the most vocal commission critic of Pasco County’s mask mandate. The order requiring masks was put in place by county administrator Dan Biles in June. Days later during a commission meeting, Mariano said he wanted the order changed to a recommendation.
He argued that there has been inconsistency from medical professionals. Some studies, he said, say that masks don’t work, so people have a false sense of security. He said that others claim wearing a mask can actually be more risky than not wearing one.
At the time, Commissioner Kathryn Starkey took issue with that saying, “there’s a lot of junk on the internet.”
Mariano repeated his plea at several other commission meetings, never convincing a majority of his fellow commissioners. “Let people protect themselves if they want to,” he said in October. For those who don’t want to wear the mask, he said, “give the freedom to go back to their lives the way they want to.”
On Tuesday, commissioners will get an update on how Pasco is faring with the coronavirus. According to the state, there were 185 new coronavirus cases in Pasco from Sunday to Monday bringing the total for the county to 16,338. A total of 306 Pasco residents have died from the virus including one recorded on Monday.
Since he got the positive test result, Mariano said he has been staying home and will not attend Tuesday’s meeting in person. But he does plan to participate using the electronic meeting system that Pasco County and many other public agencies have adopted since the start of the pandemic. Because of an order by the governor months ago, public agencies can meet and conduct business virtually using such systems.