ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman announced all St. Pete business employees will be required to wear a mask or face covering when dealing with the public. If not, they will be fined.
The plan goes for employees at bars, restaurants, gyms, retail and personal service businesses. This new rule will take effect Friday at 5 p.m.
All St. Pete business owners will be required to come up with a plan to eliminate and reduce exposures at their establishments. They will also be required to post the plan inside their businesses.
Mayor Kriseman said there may be a mask requirement for all residents, but it will not be enacted prior to this weekend. He said face masks or coverings are a strong suggestion until then for residents.
Mayor Kriseman also implored businesses to put a new rule in place, “no shirt, no shoes, no mask...no service”
"We can suffer the short term inconveniences and put the worst of this virus behind us, or we can suffer indefinitely. We can wear a mask and protect others and ourselves or we can contribute to someone’s death, maybe even our own," Mayor Kriseman said.
Kriseman also urged residents to report any businesses where employees do not wear masks or enforcing social distance. He asked people to call and report those violations on the St. Petersburg Police non-emergency line or by emailing email@example.com.
This all comes just one day after Governor Ron DeSantis said he has no intention of re-closing Florida’s economy, even as daily COVID-19 cases continued to rise sharply.
In St. Petersburg, a handful of downtown bars and restaurants have decided to temporarily close after their employees tested positive for COVID-19 including The Avenue, Parks and Rec, the Pelican Pub, the Landing, Detroit Liquors and The Galley.
Several other restaurants have decided to stop dine-in services or close their doors to be extra cautious including COPA, Beans & Barlour and Hawkers. Pacific Counter, which has not allowed dine-in since the initial pandemic closures, announced they will continue to do take out only.
In Pinellas County, 2,471 people have tested positive for COVID-19, out of 71,041 tested, as of Wednesday morning. Positive cases have spiked 71% in St. Petersburg in the past week, according to numbers from the Florida Department of Health. Recently, Pinellas County has seen a spike in cases impacting the age group of 25-34.
In a tweet, Mayor Kriseman said he delayed his weekly live update from Tuesday to Wednesday.
“As I have been speaking with county leaders and others about the next steps related to COVID-19 here locally. It is clear the State of Florida is business as usual. I will be taking steps to protect our city. In the meantime, mask up,” the mayor said in a tweet.
Last week, Kriseman was asked about whether he would support putting more restrictions in place as coronavirus cases trended up. However, he said, “Unless the data warrants taking more stringent action, we won’t, but if we believe that's something we need to do to make sure that we don't see a surge, that we don't have a challenge in our hospitals as far as beds, or ICU's, and that we don't have community spread, then that is something we will do. It's not going to be based on politics it's going to be based on data."
Kriseman also said free mask distribution sites are going to be restocked at some point this week. The first round of 2,500 masks was distributed quickly and lasted less than a day. The black masks with a small blue St. Petersburg logo will once again be handed out to residents.
"Why people are choosing to fight wearing a mask, that’s a really stupid hill to literally die on if you think about it because I’m not wearing this mask so much for me, I’m wearing it for you and for other people," said St. Pete resident Kyle Kageyama.