PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — “Lower COVID-19 hospitalization rates and increasing vaccination rates” are among the factors that led Pasco County leaders to relax face covering requirements, according to a news release sent out on Monday.
“Pasco County hospitalization rates for patients with severe COVID-19 symptoms have been steadily dropping over the past several weeks, increasing the number of available hospital beds for anyone who needs them,” the statement reads. “Seventy percent of Pasco County residents 65 and older have been vaccinated, and 57 percent of Pasco residents 50 and older have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.”
Officials note that masks are still required on Pasco County Public Transportation due to requirements from the Transportation and Security Administration.
In response the county order being rescinded, Pasco County Schools released a statement that says all students, staff, and visitors will still be required to wear masks.
“I cannot in good conscience abandon our health and safety protocols at this time,” Superintendent Kurt Browning wrote. “Our protocols have helped to prevent, and certainly reduce, the spread of COVID-19 among our students and staff.”
We found signs around @DowntownNPR asking customers to wear masks - including @BlvdBeefandAle. Owner says he’s not sure how to move forward now that masks are recommended, not required. Customers say they’re fine w/o them. He says he’ll likely have staff keep wearing them. @BN9 pic.twitter.com/jd7RYbm1hZ— Sarah Blazonis (@SarahBlazonis) April 5, 2021
The reaction from business owners was mixed.
“I’ve always followed what CDC and the state and the county told us to do and continue to do so. You know, as far as customers, I’m not going to require them to wear a mask now. Employees, I think temporarily, I will, see what goes on with the other counties," said Joe Norden, owner of Boulevard Beef & Ale. “It’s always a juggling act when you’re in business, because everybody has different views.”
The co-owner of Rose's Bistro Off Main said masks aren't going anywhere at his restaurant.
“Most of our customers, I think, appreciates the fact that my staff and all of our people here wear masks,” Jerry Kuss said. “The customers come in with masks, they eat, they go out with masks. I think this is saying we still feel, and we will still stand by, that rule.”
Debra Formaso, a New Port Richey resident who spoke with Spectrum Bay News 9 at Rose's Bistro Off Main, said she supports the county's decision.
“I think it’s great. My husband and I haven’t been wearing a mask probably for two months," she said.
County Administrator Dan Biles rescinded the county’s mandate through an executive order which is effective immediately. You can read it in its entirety below.
Despite lifting the order, Pasco County is still urging residents to wear masks inside public places when social distancing is not possible.