As COVID-19 rates stabilize, counties reconsider mask mandates

The Hillsborough County Commission's weekly COVID-19 emergency meeting was postponed today, but commissioner Stacy White says – had it gone on as planned – he was going to propose ending the county's mask mandate.

White and commissioner Sandy Murman have indicated previously that they believe a discussion about the mask requirement should happen in early October, if the COVID-19 numbers continued to trend downward – and that's exactly what has happened.

Hillsborough's positivity rate is at a little over five percent, which is down from almost seven percent at the end of August.

During the last two weeks, daily cases have dropped from about 200 to 150.

On top of that, the governor has now fully opened the state.

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There will likely be strong pushback to White's proposal. Commissioner Les Miller, for example, has been outspoken about keeping the order in place until doctors say it's safe to lift it.

But Commissioner White believes the time is now.

"This mask mandate has created a lot of division within our community; unnecessary division, as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “Look, I’m out and about every day running various errands and whatnot and I see people that are wearing masks incorrectly. I see people that aren't wearing them at all. It's an unfair burden to place on our businesses, to ask them to be the mask police."

Manatee County rescinded its mask mandate this week. Pinellas County commissioners are preparing to debate the issue at their meeting next week.

RELATED: List of mandatory mask orders in the Tampa Bay area

During a workshop this morning, the Pinellas County administrator reiterated the possible need to make regional decisions when it comes to masks, and we've heard that from city and county leaders in Hillsborough, too.

Because so many people travel throughout the Tampa Bay area, some are calling for a coordinated decision when it comes to mask mandates.

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