Hillsborough Emergency Policy Group working on changing mask ordinance, kids under 8 will not have to wear one

Posted at 7:12 AM, Jun 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-29 18:13:36-04

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. -- Monday's meeting between the Hillsborough County Emergency Policy Group (EPG) centered around who should enforce the county's mask ordinance.

Right now, it's up to businesses to police customers, which has led to a lot of complaints and even a lawsuit.

Most officials on the EPG seemed to be understanding and ready to change the language in the ordinance so individuals will be responsible for not following the rules.

And they would be the ones who could face penalties, not the business owners.

“Everybody we’ve heard from says masks cut down on the spread of this disease. Even the Vice President of the United States went against his boss yesterday at a church and said please wear masks,” said Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller.

While some EPG members wanted to relieve business owners of policing customers who don’t wear masks, they did not want to hand the responsibility of enforcement to police.

“If they had to respond to ten calls a day about a lady shopping in aisle four, we can’t have the police being burdened with that. They are already getting calls about social gatherings, they are getting calls about bars serving when they are not supposed to be. They are already getting a lot of COVID related calls,” said Temple Terrace Mayor Andy Ross.

A revised ordinance is being worked on and will be voted on during a future meeting.

The EPG did change the rules for kids and masks. Kids under 8 don’t have to wear them at all.

And those under 18 don’t need a face covering at summer camp or during youth sports.

Members of the Emergency Policy Group voted 5-3 on last week to implement an executive order requiring the wearing of protective face coverings throughout Hillsborough County.

The approved executive order requires everyone inside a for-profit business that is open to the public to wear a mask when social distancing cannot be maintained, excluding family members or others residing in your home.

This comes as two Tampa Bay attorneys made good on their promise last week to file a lawsuit over Hillsborough County's mandatory mask order.

RELATED: Local attorneys file lawsuit over Hillsborough mask order

The suit explicitly says it's not about whether face masks are good or bad. Rather, it's about whether EPG has the authority to create this new rule in the first place.

EPG members will also get a status report on the Raymond James Testing Site Transition in partnership with the State of Florida from Tim Dudley, Hillsborough County Emergency Management Director.

The county and State testing site at Raymond James Stadium will go from testing people two days a week to five days a week starting on Tuesday, June 30.

EPG will also review Friday's announcement from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation suspending the consumption of alcohol on the premises at bars amid a spike in COVID-19 cases.