Leaders at every level debate making masks mandatory

In every level of government, from federal to local, officials have encouraged the wearing of masks or cloth face covers to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In fact, health experts have said masks can offer up to 80% protection.

Still, many Americans and some folks here in Tampa Bay refuse to put one on, often citing political reasons.

In South Florida masks have been mandated. In the Tampa Bay area, however, they’re only strongly recommended, although some businesses have required them individually.

“The way to decrease the transmission is to continue to use the physical distancing, and the face-covering and hygienic practices,” said Dr. Marissa Levine, a professor at USF.

So why aren’t they mandated in Florida? One likely reason: politics.

“I understand we have different political ideas I understand that but the bottom line is we should talking about saving lives,” said Hillsborough County Emergency Policy Chair Les Miller on Thursday.

MORE: 1,902 new Florida coronavirus cases reported Friday; second straight day of record jump

Statewide and in Hillsborough County the new case numbers are trending upwards. 

FOX 13’s Political Editor Craig Patrick says mandating masks would be a tough task.

“I think there could be a scenario it depends on the political will of our local elected leaders and it depends on public perspective as well, and the gravity and continued increase of infectious cases in the Tampa bay area.  That will drive what the next steps are and whether masks become compulsory,” he said.

If you feel sick:

The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to covid-19@flhealth.gov. Email responses will be sent during call center hours.

LINK: Florida's COVID-19 website

CORONAVIRUS IN FLORIDA: What you need to know

AROUND THE WORLD: CoronavirusNOW.com

Map of known COVID-19 cases:

MOBILE APP USERS: Click here for map