Hillsborough commissioners will take over the county's pandemic response

The Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners voted to end the Emergency Policy Group (EPG).  The vote was unanimous Wednesday.  

That means the seven commissioners will handle the county’s response to emergencies like hurricanes and the COVID-19 pandemic going forward. 

“It makes the most sense in terms of streamlining efficiency,” said Commissioner Pat Kemp. 

Last month, the EPG Chair Les Miller suggested the group be disbanded due to conflict-of-interest issues with enforcement.

The EPG included several county commissioners, but also the mayors of the county’s three cities, the sheriff, and the school board chair.  Political lines often divided the group on key response issues, like whether to recommend or mandate mask use. 

The group ultimately mandated masks on June 22; that order and others will roll over to the BOCC and remain in effect.

Wednesday, Commissioner Stacy White expressed his disapproval of the mask order and said he won’t be supporting it in the future.  

“I think a mandate is too heavy and, frankly, not effective,” he said. 

In what may be a sign of things to come, Commissioner Kimberly Overman suggested making two changes to the mask mandate before being told to hold off on presenting them.  The changes could include lowering the ages of kids required to wear masks; and potentially add outdoor mask-use as well when social distancing isn’t possible. 

The BOCC will meet Thursdays at 1:30 to discuss the pandemic.