The Hillsborough County Commission voted to extend the county’s state of emergency despite the governor’s executive order.By Casey Albritton

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – The Hillsborough County Commission voted to extend the county’s state of emergency despite the governor’s decision to suspend all COVID-19 restrictions across the state.

Dr. Thomas Unnasch, an expert in public health with the University of South Florida says people still need to take COVID-19 precautions despite the governor’s executive order, and if people don’t, we could see a spike in Covid cases over the next month. He adds, “I was quite disappointed to hear [about the governor’s order] to tell you the truth because we are just off the back-end coming into the fourth wave of infection now.”

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As of Wednesday, county officials say almost 46% of eligible people in Hillsborough County are vaccinated. Dr. Unnasch says, “I’m hoping that we are at a point where it’s not going to make a lot of difference but I think we are taking a really big gamble. To get to a point where we are really protected, we need about 75 or 80% of our population vaccinated.”

The prevailing worry is the governor’s decision could cause a large spike in Coronavirus cases. “If he had waited until, maybe another five weeks before declaring this, we’d probably be at the end of the fourth wave and we’d probably be at a point where this whole pandemic is dying out and it would be a bad memory by this summer,” said Unnasch.

Despite the governor’s order, five out of six county commissioners voted to extend the local state of emergency, primarily for financial funding reasons.

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County Commissioner Kimberly Overman conveyed her fears at the meeting, “It is not the time to let our guard down. We’ve seen other countries fall into a second surge that is global in nature right now in terms of what’s happening. It is extreme but it is important to recognize a second surge is a risk.”

Overman says people still need to wear masks and social distance, but one woman who spoke during public comment at Wednesday’s meeting disagrees, pointing to children not wanting to attend school due to a mask mandate.

To that point, Dr. Unnasch says if people aren’t fully vaccinated, they need to be as safe as possible and wear their masks. “If we give up and lay down on this marathon one hundred yards before the finish line, we’re not going to finish.”

The district attorney says the local state of emergency isn’t to enforce COVID-19 restrictions, but instead it makes it easier for the county to receive COVID-19-related funding from FEMA.

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