Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is continuing to ease restrictions related to the coronavirus, despite the state seeing record increases in new cases of COVID-19.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman responded with an order on Wednesday requiring workers inside city limits to wear a mask starting Friday at 5 p.m.
"Governor DeSantis has blamed the statewide surge on the fact that more testing has occurred," he said. "He also blamed it on infections in long-term care facilities, jails, and even among migrant workers. As it relates to St. Pete, he's wrong about that."
Kriseman said the coronavirus is spreading in St. Petersburg as young adults continue to "let their guard down," pointing to the several bar and restaurant closures in downtown this past week after employees tested positive.
“When you look at the demographics of where we're seeing the largest spike, which again is in ages 25 to 34, it shouldn't be a surprise that we are seeing [bars] as a location where it is a hotspot,” he said. “We're seeing large numbers of people congregating and not necessarily wearing masks and following social distancing guidelines.”
The order announced Wednesday also mandates that businesses create and post a plan that identifies potential COVID-19 exposure in the workplace and describes what they are doing to eliminate or reduce that exposure.
Saying businesses should consider this their warning, Kriseman plans to have city personnel monitoring and visiting businesses to make sure they are following the new rules.
He also said he is working with city attorneys on another order that would require city residents to wear masks in public as soon as next week, Kriseman encouraged all residents to still wear masks inside business establishments.
“We've all seen the signs, ‘No shoes, No shirt, No service.’ Well, I'm going to suggest you add masks to that with or without a city order,” he said. “So if someone is in violation, or they refuse to put on a mask or to leave, call us. We have your back.”
Kriseman said he has been speaking with Pinellas County officials and other leaders in the Tampa Bay region in hopes that they follow suit, because “it is far more effective if our region and our state is united.”
He criticized the governor, saying that while Florida’s Phase I opening was appropriate based on the available data, Phase II was less measured in its implementation.
“Based on his comments, [DeSantis] doesn't seem to be very flexible and doesn't seem to be paying attention to what's happening in the state of Florida right now,” Kriseman said. “And that's problematic and it's forcing mayors like me and mayors around the state of Florida to take additional actions.”