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Pinellas Commission Extends Face Mask, Social Distancing Rules

Face Mask | Coronavirus | COVID-19

Commissioners heard from more than 80 citizens and considered more than 1,300 emails and voicemails for and against the face coverings ordinance before deciding to extend the state of local emergency through Sept. 25.

PINELLAS COUNTY – The Pinellas County Commission on Thursday (Sept. 17) extended its state of local emergency declaration for COVID-19 through Sept. 25 after a lengthy discussion.

The extension keeps in effect a county ordinance requiring face coverings and social distancing within public places. Board members heard from more than 80 citizens and considered more than 1,300 emails and voicemails for and against the face coverings ordinance.

The board expressed understanding for residents who cannot wear face coverings due to a physical or emotional disability (exemptions are listed within the ordinance) and pleaded for patience and understanding from those who do not have such limitations. Board members also reaffirmed their concurrence with medical experts that preventative measures such as good nutrition, exercise, smoking cessation and managing chronic health conditions are critically important in the fight against COVID-19.

Dr. Ulyee Choe, director of the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County, acknowledged that COVID-19 trending data remains encouraging, with the rolling seven-day averages for new cases and positive test rates improving to 90 and about 3 percent, respectively, but advised against relaxing the requirements for face coverings and social distancing, pointing out that most physicians, public health experts and scientists across the world recommend them.

“Two months ago in Pinellas County, we saw a huge surge in cases, which resulted in a large number of deaths and hospitalizations,” Choe said. “It got to a point where the hospitals were strained and there were staff shortages with a significant number of people on ventilators in ICUs. We certainly do not want to go back there.”

The Board is scheduled to hold its next regular virtual public meeting at 2 p.m. Sept. 22.

Pinellas Commission | COVID-19 | Face Masks | Tampabay News | News Tampa

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