*Updated: 2:10pm with Mayor Kriseman’s Facebook Live Comments*
Mayor Rick Kriseman signed an order Monday that will require those living, working, visiting or doing business in St. Petersburg to wear face masks when in “public places of assemblage.” The order goes into effect today (Tuesday) at 5 p.m.
The order, which was leaked to ABC Action News (WTSP-TV) late Monday, has not been posted to any official City of St. Petersburg channels. Communications Director Ben Kirby said the order would be posted to Restart St. Pete later Tuesday morning, but as of Tuesday afternoon remains unposted.
Kriseman took to Facebook Live Tuesday afternoon to officially announce the order. Due to the short notice, Kriseman said that while it goes into effect Tuesday at 5:00pm, enforcement will start over the weekend.
“Please know, while we will be doing education for a few days and giving everyone time to find or create a face covering, we will begin enforcing this order this weekend,” Kriseman said. “So please, take it seriously.”
He asked business owners to treat the order as if someone was entering their establishment with no shoes or no shirt, a situation in which they should ask patrons to remedy the situation or leave the premises. Kriseman explained that instead of arguing with patrons who refuse to abide by the order, business owners and citizens should call the police non-emergency line to allow the city’s code enforcement officers to enforce the order.
“Wearing a mask and social distancing are really the last two tools we have to flatten the curve without shutting down our entire economy,” Kriseman said. “These are far better alternatives to shutting down.”
Pinellas County’s COVID-19 cases have skyrocketed over the preceding weeks, with daily positive cases averaging 158.3 over the last week, up from under 20 two weeks ago. Percent positive cases are nearing 10 percent, dangerously above the five percent target Kriseman named at the beginning of the economic reopening.
Last Wednesday, Kriseman signed an order requiring face masks for employees of all St. Petersburg businesses. That order went into effect Friday at 5 p.m, giving the public more than 48 hours to prepare. Kriseman said that so far, the employee order is going well.
The new order comes ahead of a Tuesday afternoon’s Pinellas County Board of Commissioners meeting, in which three distinct mask ordinance proposals will be considered for adoption, each with varying levels of strictness in regard to who will be required to wear masks. Some proposals would require the public to wear masks in only some instances (grocery stores, drug stores, health care facilities and hospitals) or all public indoor instances, while others only require employees interacting with customers to wear masks.
The county is also expected to limit the number of people able to gather in crowds at bars, requiring patrons to be seated at a table or bar in order to be served. This piece of the ordinance is likely aimed to curb community spread among 25- to 34-year-olds, now the largest demographic of cases in Pinellas County.
According to St. Petersburg’s order, the public is required to wear a face mask or face covering over nose and mouth in any public place of assemblage, which is defined as “any room, space, common area, or other location within a building or other structure that is located within the City that is open to the public or made available for use by the public.” The order does not apply to outdoor or partially enclosed areas. The order also does not apply to residences, or dwelling or sleeping areas of hotels, apartment buildings, and dormitories.
The order does not apply to daycares, educational facilities, health and ambulatory care facilities, and detention/correctional facilities such as jails or prisons. The order also includes an exemption for religious rituals.
Further exemptions to the order include:
- Cases in which there are less than 10 people and all maintain six feet of social distancing
- While eating or drinking
- While exercising or using exercise equipment
- While singing, public speaking or playing certain musical instruments
- While receiving personal services that involve the mouth, nose, skin
- While communicating with someone who is hearing impaired
- If having trouble breathing, unconscious or unable to remove the face mask without assistance; or in any case in which wearing a mask could be detrimental to someone’s health or safety
Violations of the mask ordinance will be treated as code violations and be subject to fines.
Read the full order here.