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No Mandatory Use Of Masks In Hillsborough County

Hillsborough County Commissioner Kimberly Overman said she was trying to protect people who face restrictions at work about wearing masks.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

People do not have a right to wear a mask to ward off the coronavirus if a business owner says they can't.

That's the decision of the Hillsborough Emergency Policy Group, after their members voted 5 to 3 Thursday to defeat a motion by County Commissioner Kimberly Overman to give people the right to wear a mask any time they want.

Hillsborough County also agreed to offer summer camps at recreation centers, and has reopened athletic fields and sports complexes. Summer camps begin Monday.

Overman said she was trying to protect people who face restrictions at work about wearing masks.

"The employees should not fear being terminated for taking responsible steps to ensure their well-being and those around them," she said.

But a majority of board members said enacting the law would have unintended consequences. Temple Terrace city councilman Andy Ross said it could conflict with the rights of business owners, for instance.

"So if somebody decides to come into your coin shop wearing a mask that conceals their whole face, you can't refuse to buzz them in," said.

Voting no were Ross, Plant City Mayor Rick Lott, County Commissioner Sandra Murman, School Board chairwoman Melissa Snively and Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister. Overman got the support of Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and County Commission chair Les Miller.

Also, members were briefed about a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases, with an upward trend over the past two weeks. Dr. Douglas Holt, of the Florida Department of Health, said there were at least 450 new cases in the county in the past week, with 100 of those being confirmed just in the past 24 hours.

Group members also expressed concern about the potential for the virus to spread from the large crowds participating in civil protests over the killing of George Floyd. There is also concern about an uptick in numbers in the latest round of relaxation of restrictions on restaurants, bars and movie theaters.


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Steve Newborn is WUSF's assistant news director as well as a reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.