By Laura Mulrooney
As positive COVID-19 cases surge across the state, local governments make a tough decision.
On Tuesday, June 23, Pinellas County Commissioners voted to require face coverings inside any public establishment in Pinellas County, effective 5 p.m. Wednesday, June 24.
The ordinance does not apply to groups of less than 10 people, who are maintaining at least six feet away from other patrons, or if compliance would interfere with an individual’s religious ritual. Face shields are appropriate and will be included in the ordinance.
All patrons must be seated to be served at restaurants and bars. For persons under the age of 18, face coverings will be left to the discretion of the adult in charge. It has been deemed that it is not appropriate for children under the age of two to wear a face covering.
Individual businesses are authorized to require additional precautions but may not relax the requirements. Gulfport has also now required that anyone visiting or working in a city building wear a mask, with the exception of the Gulfport Rec Center.
“We’re not making a move to require people to wear masks out in public,” said Gulfport City Manager Jim O’Reilly during Gulfport’s special council meeting June 23. O’Reilly was referring to the use of masks outdoors. “But each business can make their own requirements.”
The recreation center is exempt due to the age of the occupants. City employees working at the center will be required to wear masks.
Gulfport City Council has asked that residents and business owners encourage those around them to adhere to the ordinance in the hopes of keeping law enforcement out of the process.
The Pinellas County Board of Commissioners elected to adopt the emergency order by ordinance so it can be enforced as a non-criminal local ordinance violation, in addition to other enforcement remedies.
Enforcement may include:
A non-criminal ordinance violation citation that levies a fine.
Injunctive relief through a complaint filed in Circuit Court.
Misdemeanor arrest or a Notice to Appear for Repeat Violations.
Gulfport will hand out masks starting tomorrow at two locations: a walk-up station at the Gulfport Casino, 5500 Shore Blvd S. from 1 to 8 p.m. daily, and the 49th St. Neighborhood Center at 1617 49th St. S., times to be determined. For more information, call 727-893-1000.
“We have plenty of masks available for businesses and residents,” assured O’Reilly. “If someone says they don’t have a mask, we’ll give them one.”
The Tuesday, July 7 City Council meeting is cancelled.
Other locations to pick up masks in St. Petersburg:
Masks are free to residents during each site’s normal operating hours. Available while supplies last.
- Azalea Recreation Center, 1600 72nd St. N.
- Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, 1101 Country Club Way S.
- Imagine Museum, 1901 Central Ave.
- The Morean Arts Center, 719 Central Ave.
- PSTA stations (Grand Central Station and Williams Park)
- The St. Pete Store & Visitors Center, 100 2nd Ave. N. #150
- Fossil Park Fire Station, 875 64th Ave. N. (when SPFR personnel are present)
- People Empowering & Restoring Communities, 1601 16th Street S.
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