Mask orders still in place, despite confusion over governor's Phase 3 order

Florida may have entered Phase 3 of reopening, but public health officials say social distancing and masks are still a must, and in places where mask ordinances have been enacted, they're still very much required. 

On Sunday, the city of Tampa used its Alert Tampa text service to remind residents that its mask ordinance remains firmly in place. 

"Face masks are still required in Hillsborough County when in any indoor location, other than your home," read the message, which also included a link to the mask ordinance.

The reminder and clarification comes amid confusion sparked by Governor Ron DeSantis' Phase 3 reopening announcement. The plan, which went into effect Friday, allows restaurants to reopen without capacity restrictions and says all businesses have the right to get back to work. 

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The Phase 3 executive order also prohibits local governments from collecting fines for those who don't comply with local face mask ordinances.  

"All outstanding fines and penalties that have been applied against individuals are suspended," DeSantis announced. 

The governor's stipulation, however, does not nullify locally-passed mask ordinances, which can only be repealed by the governments that passed them or with the expiration of a local state of emergency. 

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Businesses, however, will still have a strong incentive to ensure customers follow mask orders.

"The governor's order addresses penalties and fines against individuals but does not against businesses, explained city of Tampa's spokesperson Ashley Bauman. "We encourage businesses for the safety of their patrons and staff to require masks."

Code enforcement officers have been the primary source of enforcement and education on mask orders for businesses.

"[The] new order does not impact the local orders the county has, including the face-covering requirement for indoor facilities and that customers be seated to be served at a bar. Those remain in place," agreed Pinellas County spokesperson Tony Fabrizio.

Mask rules aren't the only source of confusion by the governor's Phase 3 announcement. 

The executive order issued Friday gives restaurants the green light to return to normal-capacity operations. The order makes no mention of bars and nightclubs though, which were only just allowed to reopen at 50% capacity on September 14. The original Phase 3 plan, however, states that bars and nightclubs can fully reopen once the state is in Phase 3.

The city of Tampa says it's still waiting for clarification from the governor's office on whether bars and night clubs can indeed operate at full capacity now that he's announced Phase 3. 

Read the original Phase 3 reopening plan on page 28 of this document: