Aug 3, 2021 - Politics
Local Florida leaders eye ways to take on DeSantis' anti-mask stance
With Florida at the forefront of the nation's COVID surge, local governments across Tampa Bay are wondering if — or how — they can subvert Gov. Ron DeSantis' administration to do something to slow the spread.
Why it matters: A day after Florida broke its record for daily cases, it did the same for the total number of COVID hospitalizations — set way back in July 2020, per the AP.
- It's clear DeSantis won't budge on bringing masks back. He banned mandates in schools last week and blocked local governments from requiring them in May.
- His spokesperson said that "there is no reason to believe that a mask mandate would prevent a case increase," Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald Tallahassee bureau.
State of play: Leaders who want to reinstate mask policies find their hands tied.
- St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman told Axios that he's "frustrated that the state has seen fit to tie the hands of local leaders, when our only goal is the health and safety of our citizens." He's reconvened his COVID team to discuss how to tackle the surge.
- The City of Tampa is requiring its vaccinated workers to wear a button or wristband if unmasked while unvaccinated workers must mask up, according to Adam Smith, a spokesman for Mayor Jane Castor. No other new polices are planned, he added.
- Hillsborough County Commission chair Pat Kemp told the Times/Herald she wants to pass another countywide mask ordinance, but she'd be breaking state law. For now, Hillsborough only requires masks inside county buildings.
- State courts in Manatee, Sarasota and DeSoto counties started requiring masks inside their buildings this week.
The big picture: Beyond the mask debate, local leaders are doing all they can to encourage vaccinations.
- Sarasota Mayor Hagen Brody told Axios his main concern is making sure citizens get a shot, calling it "the most important thing right now."
- Pinellas County Commission chair Dave Eggers told the Times/Herald that "we have what we need" to combat COVID, adding that any mask mandates should be "a statewide call."
- New Hillsborough County employees will be required to be fully vaccinated by the end of the month, per WTSP.
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