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Hillsborough EPG approves changes to mask order, customers can now be fined for not wearing masks

Posted at 6:26 AM, Jul 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-06 22:12:01-04

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — The Hillsborough County Emergency Policy Group has approved changes to the county's mask order, including requiring businesses to post signs and make announcements explaining when customers need to wear a face covering.

At their meeting on July 6, Hillsborough leaders voted 5-3 to change the language of the original mask order.

All business operators of an indoor location of a business that is open to the public in Hillsborough County shall make "reasonable efforts" to require all persons within the location to wear a face covering when not maintaining social distancing from other people. That excludes family members or others living in their homes and those who are exempt due to a medical condition.

Leaders have also added language to the mask mandate asking businesses to:

  • Post signage on all public entrances indicating face coverings must be worn inside unless an exemption. The county offers free, printable signs and social media graphics for your business.
  • If the business is equipped with a public announcement or “PA” system over which announcements to patrons are made, then make regular announcements reminding all people that face coverings must be worn
  • Require all employees not exempt from wearing a face-covering to wear one in any indoor location of the business
  • Make all other reasonable efforts, including asking patrons not wearing face coverings (who don't have a medical exemption) to do so.

The criminal sanctions against business owners who violate the order have been removed. In the original order, only business operators were liable for punishment, but now customers caught not wearing a mask can also face fines.

The Hillsborough EPG also approved language where businesses are not allowed to ask a person not wearing a covering to identify a specific health condition.

"No business operator or employee shall ask a person not wearing a face-covering pursuant to this exemption to identify a specific health condition or supply documentation thereof, nor shall any business operator or employee deny such person admittance or service because he/she is not wearing a face covering," the language said.

Those who are found not following the mask mandate, and are not exempt because of a medical condition, could be subject to fines of up to $150.

Sheriff Chad Chronister asked doctors why the county hasn't seen a decrease in the number of cases two weeks since they've passed this mandate. Doctors say it's too early to see the impact of the order in the data.

The Hillsborough County EPG's next meeting is Thursday, July 16 at 1:30 p.m.

Click here for frequently asked questions about the county's order.