Hillsborough County facilities to require masks starting Wednesday amid COVID-19 surge

A signpost enforces the CDC's face mask mandate.
The county adjusted the guideline in hopes of reducing transmission. 

Hillsborough County will start requiring individuals to wear face masks again within county facilities starting Wednesday, in response to a recent surge in COVID-19 cases brought on during the holidays by the omicron variant.

The county announced the altered protocol in a news release Tuesday. County officials decided to adjust the guidelines in accordance with their Administrative Directive to reduce transmission risk.

“The measure is being taken as a precaution for the health and safety of county employees as well as residents,” the release reads.

Masks will be required indoors at county facilities regardless of vaccination status, applying to both to county employees and visitors. County buildings include places such as libraries, recreation centers and county centers. The county is not requiring masking in outdoor areas, but it is advising outdoor visitors to follow the most current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations.

The revised rule will affect in-person public comments at the Board of County Commissioners meetings starting Jan. 12.

The stricter protocol comes as Hillsborough County reported its highest weekly COVID-19 caseload since September in the week leading up to Christmas.

The county reported 5,133 new cases of COVID-19 in the week of Dec. 17 through Dec. 23. By comparison, in the week prior, the county reported 1,363 new cases of COVID-19, which in itself was a slight trend upward.

The new data shows the highest caseload the county has seen since the end of the summer surge in mid-September, when the county reported 5,442 weekly cases in a Sept. 17 report.

Hillsborough County also reported a 10.8% positivity rate last week, a leap from the prior week’s 4.3%. It’s also the first time since the summer surge the county has hit a positivity rate of 10%, which is considered the benchmark number for community spread.

The good news: Hillsborough County residents are continuing to get vaccinated. The county recorded 7,646 new vaccinations in the last week, up from the week prior, which saw 6,259 new vaccinations. The new report brings the total number of vaccinated Hillsborough County residents to 934,194, or 66%.

Kelly Hayes

Kelly Hayes studied journalism and political science at the University of Florida. Kelly was born and raised in Tampa Bay. A recent graduate, she enjoys government and legal reporting. She has experience covering the Florida Legislature as well as local government, and is a proud Alligator alum. You can reach Kelly at [email protected].

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