Pinellas Co. approves face mask mandate, allows face shields as alternative
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face mask
The decision came after hours of passionate public comment.

Pinellas County is adding itself to the growing number of local governments requiring face masks in public places.

Effective Wednesday at 5 p.m. individuals will be required to wear a face mask or shield in all public places where ten or more people gather and social distancing is not possible.

The ordinance passed almost unanimously with only Republican Commissioner Kathleen Peters voting no.

“I do support masks, this isn’t about that. What I don’t support is mandating masks,” Peters said of her lone no-vote.

Her concerns, paired with those of dozens of public commenters, did drive some change.

The original proposed ordinance would have required facial coverings, but after she and public commenters, who spent hours flooding the meeting with calls, expressed concern about potentially unsanitary conditions when masks are required for long periods of time, commissioner agreed to include face shields as an alternative despite medical professionals attesting that they are not as effective.

Face shields are large plastic barriers worn in front of the entire face, rather than just the mouth and nose, that protect against larger droplets expelled from people coughing, sneezing or talking.

“It is not as effective as a face mask,” said Dr. Ulyee Choe, director of the Florida Department of Health Pinellas County.

He said the two are not interchangeable and are typically used together to maximize protection by including eye protection.

Commissioners ultimately agreed to allow the face shields as an alternative, arguing something was better than nothing.

Exemptions also exist for individuals who for medical or mental health reasons cannot wear a mask.

Commissioners also changed language to provide exemptions for churches to allow them to opt out of face mask rules for religious activities like choir singing as long as social distancing is still maintained. The change was meant to take into account the substantial threat of spread through singing.

The order will also apply to day care center.

Minors under the age of 18 will be required to wear a face mask at the discretion of their parents. Unaccompanied minors may be subject to the ordinance unless they have a medical reason for not wearing one.

The meeting was met with extreme passion on both sides of the mask issue.

Those opposed referenced constitutional freedoms, a lack of verifiable science about whether masks were effective and whether the masks presented safety risks that outweighed the potential benefits.

Supporters cried foul, argue those dissenters were ignoring science.

While dozens upon dozens weighed in, it was perhaps a nine-year old girl who summed up supporters’ points best.

“I wear them to keep my friends and family safe and make sure they don’t have to go to the hospital,” said Grace Harrison. “Kids will wear the masks if you make it fun. Look at Halloween. Kids wear masks all the time and it doesn’t cause any problems.”

Commissioners questioned when to implement the ordinance, worrying providing less than 24-hours notice wasn’t sufficient to prepare residents. Ultimately they came to consensus that time was ticking.

“You know what, I don’t really care if it’s less than a day. It’s time,” said Commission Chair Pat Gerard, noting the action probably should have been taken a week ago.

Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected]


  • BlueHeron

    June 23, 2020 at 11:58 pm

    When I received breaking news on my phone earlier, I was ecstatic to hear the news. About damn time. I have been growing angrier and angrier about the lack of leadership in this regard.
    Now that I read this. It’s about damn time despite churches being exempt and face shields?

    It says public places. Does that mean restaurants, bars, grocery stores, all business? I will call the Pinellas Health Dept tomorrow.

    For me, the Constitution and personal freedom argument is ridiculous. This selfish, you can’t tell me what to do attitude will be the death of us all. We are in this together. We need to keep each other safe and healthy. If you really want freedom, a job and better economy, MASK-IT. If you want to throw the Constitution around, then explain to me why your freedom is more important than mine? I have many people in my world who have long ago stopped going to church because of the lack of masks. This current ruling ensures that their inability to worship as they choose is still a problem. But they suck it up and do whatever they can for the greater good. No whining.
    The anti-science tin foil hat crowd are just as much a danger to society as the “freedom” folks. Once a vaccine or treatment is available, they will be the first to say no, I don’t believe in vaccines.

    So, I will exhale for now. I will try to thank folks every now and again for wearing a mask and perhaps will start shaming those who don’t.

    • Marsh Atlas

      June 24, 2020 at 5:46 pm

      typical sheep/slave mentality.

      The threat of shaming others for not wearing a mask is typical Karen behavior too.

      And name calling people anti-science tin foil hat crowds marginalize them as bad as any racist slang.
      You are including countless numbers of science and health care professionals in that bag.
      I’m really perplexed at your ‘freedom folks’ comment – so do you prefer servitude and slavery?
      Nobody who objects to mask wearing is insinuating they freedom and liberty is more important than those who choose to wear masks.
      I’m going to guess that you only listen to mainstream sources like CNN and are completely close minded to anyone who has other information to share that would offer a more well rounded basis to make an informed intelligent decision.

    • Sam

      July 2, 2020 at 11:29 pm

      You are a very sick and disgusting individual…. talk about selfish!!! Oh btw “Karen” go ahead with all your Karen calls to the police, you know the ones you and your ilk are trying so hard to abolish?!?! Yeah, while those guys are responding to your stupid Karen call, the people that ACTUALLY NEED the police for REAL CRIMES won’t be available BECAUSE OF SELFISH TIN FOIL BS ARTISTS LIKE YOU!!! Who’s the criminal now!!! Yeah Karen…. You are!!! Hope you can sleep at night!!!

  • Karen Blanchard

    June 24, 2020 at 1:50 pm

    Located right here in Pinellas County, Madico is producing face shields. Madico’s Safe-Gard® face shields provide the perfect barrier against coughing, sneezing or talking.

  • Sam

    July 2, 2020 at 11:46 pm

    Marsh!!! You’re awesome and commented with style and grace!! Good on you, I’ve been dealing with these Demon Lib types and Karen’s (lol just realized one of them is actually A KAREN) for so long that I have to admit I let my emotion get the best of me. Truth is a positive case without desaturate is a good thing, it just means the ACTUAL DEATH RATE IS FAR LOWER than any of these alphabet corps have come up with, truth is you have a better chance of being murdered on a vaca to Mexico than you do of catching a fatal case of the beer bug! The s the facts Jack AND KARENS!!! Anyway, fact is they don’t KNOW FACTS… they choose to follow the leader and their Demoncratics every whim, EVEN THOUGH EVERY “HEALTH PROFESSIONAL” HAS AT EVERY STEP HAD TO WALK BACK THEIR DECISIONS DUE TO BS NUMBERS AT EVERY LEVEL, STARTING WITH THE WHO AND FAUCI!!!! May want to look up New England Medical Journal white paper written by FAUCI himself calling this virus a “Simple mild flu”!!!! Do hour research Karen’s out there before you open your HUGE LYING PIEHOLES!!!!

  • BlueHeron

    July 3, 2020 at 1:55 am

    Marsh and Sam, Anger much? Phew. I hope your sometimes incoherent and out of context responses have calmed you somewhat. Nice to let it all out.

    I am not going to get into mask wearing as you both clearly think it is something that is a ridiculous waste of time and makes you a sheep or a slave. That’s your opinion. I hope you do not have to regret this decision. I wish you, your family, friends and even the strangers around you good health and prosperous futures. You will be luckier than some of the people in my world. Blessed that nobody has died but there has been illness of varying degrees. Being ill from covid is not a place you want to be and I would reckon that you would not want this sickness for anyone you love.

    As for the Karen bs… give it a rest. You are barking up the wrong tree guys.
    I am a person who believes the science and have been masking it since March. Not looking for a medal. Just trying to maybe keep myself and others safer given the fact many of us are vulnerable and should be wearing one. I have no need to call the “mask” police. I have been thanking people for wearing a mask and they have thanked me as well. For months, those of us who have been wearing masks have been mocked for wearing one. I have been literally yelled at in the middle of stores because I am in “their way” while mumbling freedom. At the park, gas pump, checking out groceries, etc… To a person, they all say I am infringing on their freedom and liberty.They cannot articulate this statement very well and all they essentially say is “you’re not the boss of me”. Based on their argument, I simply ask the reasonable question as to why they think their freedom and liberty is more important than my freedom and liberty which is nothing more than a burning desire not to get sick or worse. I am at the mercy of anyone not wearing a mask.
    It is such an easy way to keep ourselves safe, get business open, jobs back and recover the economy as safely and quickly as possible.
    I do not say or do anything even remotely close to an entitled rich ‘Karen’. EVER. I know Karen. I’ve met a few and I find them sad, clueless and sometimes dangerous.
    The only thing I am entitled to is my life. Free from covid.

    I have been somewhat naive during this crisis. I thought “we the people” would put our differences aside and at least get together on this one issue. Protecting each other for the greater good of all. You know, E pluribus unum.

    • marsh

      July 5, 2020 at 2:11 am

      unfortunately i think anonymous comment boards cause a lot of miscommunication too. People who were mask shaming you weeks or months ago are idiots. If someone wants to wear a mask for whatever reason, that’s fine with me.
      What is frustrating is the same so-called experts including the atty general, the untrustworthy fauci, the who, etc have ALL flipflopped on to wear a mask or not to wear a mask. It helps. It does nothing.
      I can tell you what it has done. It has become yet one more topic that imo, has actually been orchestrated to sow more division and fear. The whole idiotic identity politics is destroying us. Communism doing its thing.

      • BlueHeron

        July 6, 2020 at 4:05 am

        I appreciate your response. This virus was brand new and there were more unknowns than what is now known.Information gathered. Lessons learned. In the beginning, I did not listen to the experts including the Surgeon General of the US and started wearing a mask. Small sacrifice and made sense to me. Sure, there were many statements made that turned out to be wrong. Projections that have, sadly, come true and some that have not.Guidance is different depending on who we ask. We all sacrificed during the shutdown. We are partially open and now Florida has 200K positive tests and massive unemployment. While my family is dealing with covid personally, we are also dealing with lost jobs and the falling dominoes that come right behind it. Nobody is immune. Pretty devastating stuff for everyone. We are exhausted by all of it, aren’t we? I know I am.

        I will not blame our elected leaders at all levels for covid. They did not cause it. But I will blame our elected leaders at all levels for causing the confusion over what we need to do and what they are responsible for providing to all of us in order to deal with this smartly and timely. We have got to find a way to tamp down this beast so we can hopefully all get back on our feet. Unprecedented times to be sure.

        I am with you 100% on the divisive times we are in. Like everyone else, I am frustrated and sometimes angry. I need to always think before I speak and do it in a calm and rational way.It will destroy us if we cannot find a way to deal with this crisis of division.
        Not sure what you mean about Communism so I’ll just leave it at that.

        Can I interest you in a mask? I’ll be your best friend and you’ll be my hero.
        Thanks again Marsh.

Comments are closed.


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