NEW PORT RICHEY — With the number of vaccinations rising and hospital admissions related to COVID-19 declining, Pasco county administrator Dan Biles on Monday ended the county’s mask mandate.
Pasco officials still recommend that citizens use masks when they are in indoor spaces where social distancing isn’t possible, but the county will no longer require them.
Face coverings are still required on all Pasco County Public Transportation buses per Transportation and Security Administration requirements. Additionally, the lifting of the order does not apply to entities outside the control of the Pasco County Commission, including schools and courthouses.
Health officials have been monitoring hospitalization rates, which have steadily dropped for the last several weeks. Additionally, 70 percent of Pasco County residents 65 and older have been vaccinated, and 57 percent of Pasco residents 50 and older have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The mask mandate had been the topic of much public comment at recent Pasco commission meetings. Speakers have urged the commission end the mandate, but a majority of commissioners has refused to vote the requirement down, based on the recommendation of Robert Napier, the director for the Florida Department of Health in Pasco County.
Pasco commissioner Jack Mariano, the chief critic of the order, said he is glad to see the mandate ended and that the people and businesses of Pasco “can now use their own personal responsibility to make decisions.” He added, “There is a lot of freedom that just came to Pasco County and I’m delighted.”
Since the start of the pandemic, Pasco County has recorded 37,013 coronavirus cases and 703 deaths. On Monday, there were 107 new cases recorded in Pasco, with three new hospitalizations and no reported deaths.
Monday was the first day that all adults in Florida became eligible for the vaccine. Those still seeking a vaccine can register through the Florida Department of Health in Pasco County. Various retail pharmacies, hospital systems and doctor’s offices are also offering vaccines. More information is available through the Florida Department of Health Vaccine Locator.
Pasco County’s mask order was issued in June 2020 to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Leading public health agencies still recommend face coverings, social distancing and frequent handwashing to limit the spread of the coronavirus.