At a Thursday, December 3 press conference, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri called for a countywide push for stronger mask and social distancing compliance.
On June 24, Pinellas County passed Ordinance 20-14 mandating face coverings in public places. Since then, positive COVID-19 cases have fluctuated. Recently, however, cases have surged.
According to Johns Hopkins University, Thursday, December 3, the U.S. reported 2,879 COVID-19 deaths – breaking the record set just the previous day. Since the start of the pandemic, 276,325 deaths have been linked to COVID-19 in the U.S., with no sign of slowing.
Florida is third in the country for most COVID-19 related deaths at 18,874. The state has logged more than a million positive cases since the start of the pandemic.
PCSO deputies conducted checks on businesses around the county and found 40% of bars and 8% of restaurants in violation of the ordinance, including staff not wearing masks, Sheriff Gualtieri said.
Pinellas County Administrator Barry A. Burton, County Commission Chair Pat Gerard, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard joined Gualtieri in urging businesses to do better – or potentially face consequences.
“Fines and penalties are not suspended for businesses, so if we have to go down that path, we can. We don’t want to. We need the businesses, again, to help us help you – to help the community,” Gualtieri said during the press conference.
In Gulfport on Friday, December 4, police officers visited area businesses reminding them of the mandate and posting PCSO signs to help enforce the rules.
One server at Pia’s Trattoria on Beach Boulevard was glad for the official signage.
“We have our own sign” reminding customers they must wear a mask indoors, she explained, but the large, blue PCSO signs would be a welcome addition.
Patrons must wear a face covering in public, indoor places. All employees and business owners must wear a face covering at all times; even when serving outdoor areas. Employees and business owners must also work to ensure every person inside their business complies with the county ordinance.
Restaurant and bar customers must be seated in order to be served. Tables must be spaced six feet apart and groups larger than 10 must not be seated at the same table.
For the latest information on Pinellas County’s COVID-19 response, visit covid19.pinellascounty.org.