TAMPA, Fla. - As coronavirus cases continue to rise statewide, more cities and counties are putting new face mask rules into place -- that includes Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties.
After an eight-hour meeting Tuesday, Pinellas County commissioners passed a mandate that begins at 5 p.m. Wednesday. The order will require every adult to wear a mask while inside public buildings if they cannot social distance.
Masks won't be required for anyone under the age of 18. Commissioners said parents should decide if their kids should have one on.
There are some exceptions for those with medical conditions and for some small businesses. Those that can maintain social distancing and have 10 or fewer people inside have to require masks.
The county is working to finalize pick-up locations where individuals can go for free masks, similar to Hillsborough County.
Hillsborough's Emergency Policy Group approved a mask mandate earlier this week, which went into effect immediately, with enforcement beginning at 5 p.m. Wednesday. Businesses will have to require employees and customers to wear a mask inside when people can't social distance. Those businesses will have to enforce this.
There won't be fines for individuals, but the businesses themselves could be fined if they allow people inside who don't wear face coverings. There are exceptions for churches, non-profit organizations and schools, as well as medical exceptions
In Pasco County, the mask order went into effect immediately after Dan Biles, the county administrator, issued an executive order Tuesday.
Enforcement begins 5 p.m. Thursday. Not wearing a mask could result in a $250 fine.
Similar to Hillsborough's order, everyone inside businesses and government facilities that are open to the public will have to wear a mask if they cannot social distance. There is also an exception for underlying medical conditions.
Orders in both Tampa and St. Petersburg are already in effect. Masks are required for everyone inside public spaces where people can't maintain at least six feet of separation.
While businesses could face fines for violations, individuals in both cities could also be ticketed for breaking the ordinance.
On Tuesday, Governor Ron DeSantis said the state will crackdown on bars and restaurants that don't follow the state's reopening rules, and could risk losing their liquor licenses if they don't comply.
"If they're operating at 55 percent, OK give them a warning," DeSantis explained. "But if you go in and it’s just like mayhem, like dance party U.S.A. and it’s packed to the rafters, that’s just cut and dry. That’s not just an innocent mistake."
The governor said most bars and restaurants are taking steps to prevent coronavirus from spreading, but there have been situations, like the Knight's Pub in Orlando, where dozens of workers and customers tested positive for COVID-19 after officials said they repeatedly violated social distancing rules.
Therefore, the pub's liquor license was suspended.