Hillsborough extends COVID-19 state of emergency without mask mandate

The Hillsborough County Commission voted Wednesday to extend the local state of emergency, just days after the governor ended all local COVID-19 mandates across the state.

Wednesday’s vote has no impact on the county’s mask mandates or social distancing regulations; commissioners were clear that the governor said those are no longer allowed.

That means, for the first time in more than a year, Hillsborough County is without a mask mandate. Commissioners acknowledged today that this is now the current situation.

"It is not a time to let our guard down. We have seen other countries fall into a second surge that is actually global in nature right now, in terms of what's happening," warned Commissioner Kimberly Overman, who has been a staunch proponent of mask requirements. "It's an extreme example. But it is important to recognize that second surge is a risk if we let our guards down."

Commissioners also reiterated that businesses can still require masks or other safety measures in their establishments.

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According to commissioners, extending the state of emergency will allow them to be in position to get federal relief money as it becomes available.

Monday’s announcement by the governor came because vaccines are readily available and appointments aren’t necessary, he said.

The number of vaccinated people in Hillsborough County is still below 50%. The Health Department no longer expects the county to hit that number until the middle of June and it won’t hit 70% until at least mid-August.

Commissioners are still urging people to wear masks when necessary and socially distance.

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