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Pinellas County leaders consider making face masks mandatory

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Posted at 5:25 PM, Jun 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-23 05:20:40-04

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman signed an ordinance mandating everyone in the city to wear a mask anytime they enter an indoor business.

Kriseman signed off on the new rules Monday night, and they go into effect Tuesday evening.

Failure to wear a mask inside an indoor retail business, restaurant, bar, gym, hair/nail salon, massage parlor, tattoo shop etc. could result in an up to $500 fine.

There are exceptions such as those actively eating or drinking, they may remove their masks.

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It comes as Pinellas County leaders consider similar rules. Tuesday afternoon, commissioners are set to vote on a mandatory mask ordinance for employees and customers of at businesses. County leaders will also look at capping bar capacity to at 50 people at a time.

Jon Thogmartin, Pinellas County’s Medical Examiner, worries too many of us are letting our guards down.

“It appears that as soon as business owners said we’re opening back up it was like ‘oh it’s over.’ It’s not over,” he said. “If you think about a bar, there’s music in the background and we are having drinks and I can’t hear you and we move closer and then we shout. We’re talking right next to each other. That’s just gravy for the virus."

County leaders particularly worry about EMTs, paramedics and hospital staff getting sick in larger numbers as the spike in COVID-19 cases continues.

“If we don’t want to go back to a lockdown let’s do the things we need to do to be responsible right now,” Commissioner Ken Welch said.

Thogmartin and other doctors say when possible, it’s best to choose a spot outdoors at restaurants and bars.

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Commissioner Pat Gerard says they are looking at a range of penalties for anyone blatantly ignoring the mask rules.

“It’s not going to give you a criminal record but it is going to cost you," she said.

County leaders also want to look at using influencers like local sports stars and musicians to make the idea of wearing masks “cool” to young adults.