15:26 PM

Masks and the Tampa Bay region: What visitors need to know

With COVID-19 cases on the rise in Florida, city and county leaders around the Tampa Bay area are tightening safety restrictions and enacting ordinances requiring residents and visitors to wear face coverings or masks. Face masks or coverings may keep the wearers from spreading the virus to others, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and are believed to have been helpful in successfully reducing cases in other countries in Europe and Asia.

But what are the rules, exactly, and how do they differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction? Most are similar with very slight differences in restrictions. We help break it down among the cities and counties around the Tampa Bay region so visitors know what’s expected when they’re vacationing or working in the area. Tampa International Airport, by the way, requires masks of all employees, guests and passengers who are inside the airport with some exceptions, as mandated by the City of Tampa as well as Hillsborough County.

Tampa: The City of Tampa, which includes downtown areas and the Westshore business district as well as TPA, issued an executive order on June 19 requiring facial coverings in any indoor location other than home. Read the order for the exceptions, which include children under 2 and people who are able to maintain a six-foot distance from others.

Hillsborough County: Hillsborough's Emergency Policy Group mandates that businesses must require employees and customers to wear a mask inside when people can't social distance, with the businesses themselves enforcing it. The businesses could be fined if they allow people inside who don't wear face coverings. There are exceptions for churches, non-profit organizations and schools, as well as medical exceptions.

St. Petersburg and Pinellas County: Pinellas County, which includes St. Petersburg and the county’s wide swath of beach towns, passed an ordinance that requires masks or face coverings in most public buildings, including restaurants, shops and bars. The Board of County Commissioners issued a release detailing the rules and exceptions.

Polk County: As of June 24, Polk County had no mask ordinance and Lakeland city leaders recently decided not to pursue one either.

Pasco County: In areas north of Tampa including Dade City and New Port Richey, face coverings are required for anyone entering a public business or government building with some exceptions, according to the county executive order.

Hernando County: There is no mandatory mask ordinance in Hernando County as of June 24, though rules may vary for private businesses.

Manatee County: There is no mandatory mask ordinance in Manatee County, which includes Bradenton. As of June 24, nearby Sarasota was considering a mask ordinance similar to those in Tampa and St. Petersburg.