Hillsborough Rejects Outdoor Masks at Bars

TAMPA -- Hillsborough commissioners will not be requiring bars and restaurants to take their indoor dining rules outside.

Commissioner Kimberly Overman proposed that the county extend its mask ordinance, which requires people be seated before they can be served at indoor areas of bars and restaurants among other things, to outdoor dining and party areas. She "For too long, we've allowed bars and restaurants... to pack in maskless folks... and consequently our numbers are at levels that are not safe."

Overman insisted that many bars and restaurants in the Safe and Sound program are already following those guidelines. She insisted it would not shut businesses down or stop Super Bowl parties.

She quickly realized the numbers were against her. Stacy White was joined by fellow commissioner Harry Cohen, who insisted that extending the rule to outdoor patios would undermine the mask ordinance's credibility. "We've got to trust people to react to the information we've given them about how important it is to wear a mask and socially distance."

Overman then proposed the ordinance be rewritten to "strongly recommend" mask wearing in outdoor seating.

In other COVID-19 related news, commissioners got an update on testing and vaccination. About 19,000 people had been vaccinated in Hillsborough through last week. The state health department just opened up a new vaccine site at University Mall in north Tampa, which will provide shots to frontline health workers and those over 65. Officials hope to keep it open seven days a week if they can get a consistent supply of vaccines.

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