PINELLAS COUNTY (CW44 News At 10) –

Pinellas County Commission passes emergency ordinance requiring face coverings and other safety measures for citizens. There are, however, some exceptions to the new rules.RELATED ARTICLE: Mayor Kriseman: ‘Masks Are More Comfortable Than Ventilators’

“EMS to ER to our Director of Public Health, it is the last tool we have in the toolbox,” said Charlie Justice, Pinellas County Commissioner.

“You know, we’ve been here for 6 hours talking about this this week. If I don’t do what I think is the best thing for my community, I don’t deserve to be here.. and you can threaten me all you want.. we’re not here for our own good,” said Pat Gerard, Pinellas County Commissioner.

After nearly 7 hours of a heated live discussion, the Pinellas County Board of Commissioners voted to make face coverings mandatory. That order went into effect Wednesday at 5:00 pm.

What this means is citizens must wear a face covering, like a mask or face shield, in most indoor places with some exceptions.

It does not apply if you are strictly social distancing and there are 10 or fewer people in that location doing the same. This also won’t apply to schools or government entities. If you’re exercising in a gym and social distancing, you don’t have to wear a mask.

For those under the age of 18, the use of a face covering is left at the discretion of the parent or accompanying adult.

In a statement from the board, they say they made their decision based on COVID-19 trending data, county health officials, and the CDC.

“Three weeks ago across the greater Tampa Bay area, we were averaging somewhere around 125 new cases a day. And now, it’s 1,000 new cases a day, and we would anticipate, based on the curve, that next week it could be as high as 2,000 new cases a day,” said Dr. Angus Jameson, Medical Director EMS.

All restaurant and bar staff must now wear a face covering while on duty and those locations can no longer allow patrons to congregate in areas such as dance floors or standing at bar top areas. You don’t have to wear a mask while seated at your table.

Violations of this order range from a warning all the way up to an arrest.

“I have no intention of running out and playing mask police, but if people are totally defiant, they’re not making any effort, then we’re going to have to address it to some degree but I hope that never happens. It has a lot of reasonable exceptions. Just do the right thing with it,” said Bob Gualtieri, Pinellas County Sheriff.

For the complete Pinellas County ordinance, click here.