With COVID-19 cases steadily rising in Florida, local authorities are aiming to take every precaution to keep residents safe. One method becoming more common is the mandatory mask order. These have gone into effect in several Florida areas, including Hillsborough County and, most recently, Lakeland. Depending on your location, there may be some key differences you will want to be aware of.
What Is Required by Mandatory Mask Orders?
These mask orders will require that people in indoor public places, especially businesses, wear some sort of face covering. Masks and face coverings are suggested in order to reduce COVID-19 transmission. Social distancing is still strongly encouraged, but in some cases, it is not possible.
Hillsborough County’s emergency policy group voted to instate a mask order that began June 24. The group required that they renew the order through a weekly vote. Businesses were tasked with enforcing the rules and were given power to refuse entry to customers who did not comply with the order. Non-compliant business owners could be subject to fines and jail time. Customers were not subject to charges or fines.
Now, two weeks after the order went into effect, the emergency policy group is voting to adjust the order. A proposed change will no longer include criminal charges for business owners who make a reasonable effort to enforce it. If officials accept the proposal, businesses will be asked to post signage and make announcements that inform customers of the mask order. They would no longer be required to enforce the order, which many business owners claimed was an unfair responsibility to be placed upon them.
Lakeland instituted a mandatory mask order beginning July 2. As of right now, the order will stay in effect for a month until August 3. Unlike in Hillsborough County, Lakeland residents and visitors are subject to fines if not following the order, not the business owners that do not enforce it. City of Lakeland commissioners may vote to extend the order past its current August 3 expiration date if they feel it is needed.
Who Is Exempt from These Orders?
There are some situations that exempt people from having the wear a mask in public places. These exceptions will vary from area to area, but these are the most common:
- Those following the CDC’s social distancing guidelines (maintaining a distance of 6 feet)
- Workers who do not physically interact with others while working or can do so while social distancing
- People who are eating or drinking
- Those who are exercising in public
- Children under 2 years old are exempt in Hillsborough County and Tampa, while children under 8 years old are exempt in Lakeland
Even in a situation where a mask is not required by these new orders, experts still recommend social distancing.
In each of our offices, we are encouraging social distancing and using increased sanitation procedures to keep the spread of this virus as low as possible. We are also offering free video consultations to new clients to keep our staff, you, and your loved ones healthy and safe. All of these methods help us offer you a positive client experience. We will be keeping an eye on any new local information that affects our offices and our clients so that we can better serve you.
Do you see the mandatory mask orders as a benefit? What do you think local governments can do to lower COVID-19 cases and help you most? We would love to hear from you in the comments below!