Tampa Bay Leaders Partner Together To Stem The Spread Of Coronavirus
City and county leaders are taking a regional approach with more consistent messaging and similar ordinances for mask wearing and physical distancing.
The mayors of the three largest cities in the Tampa Bay area gathered with county leaders Thursday on Facebook Live to ensure residents they'll be enforcing safety measures for the coronavirus.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said it's important for local leaders to take a regional approach to curb the surge in coronavirus cases.
"COVID-19 doesn't know where a city ends, and a county begins," Castor said. "And so that's even more of a reason for us all to come together and make sure that that we can prevent this this disease."
“We do have a vaccine. A lot of individuals believe that with the arrival of that vaccine, we don't have to take any further steps," she said. "That is not factual. We have got to continue wearing mask; we won't have the entire community vaccinated for a number of months. And so we've got to continue forward with these simple steps that will allow us to all stay safe.”
Hillsborough County commissioners took a stand Wednesday against anyone standing up at businesses that serve food or drink.
They voted to require those establishments to make sure people sit down unless they are waiting to be seated. They also passed a requirement that patrons have to keep their masks on unless they're eating or drinking.
The move mirrors an ordinance in Pinellas County.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said the ordinance helps keep businesses in compliance, so they can stay open while shutdowns and lockdowns continue across the country.
He said St. Pete has issued more than 189 citations, many of them to the same group of businesses.
“We will be taking additional action against them," Kriseman said. "Don't make us do that. We don't want to do that. None of us on this call want to issue one citation, not one of us.”
He said while fines are levied against the businesses and not the patrons, people have an individual responsibility to abide by the rules.
“For those people who sit and want to talk about, ‘I should be able to go out and dance if I want to,’ really?” Kriseman said. “Are we really going to have that kind of a discussion and the debate that you cannot put off going onto a dance floor or holding an office party until we are through this?”
Castor said in Hillsborough, the fines can be a civil citation up to $500, or can be a second degree misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $500 or 60 days in jail.
Patrons in Hillsborough County can report businesses not following mask and physical distancing requirements by calling (813) 274-6600.
The most recent state numbers show that the rate of people in Florida who tested positive for the coronavirus for the first time came in at almost 9.3% Tuesday, the second consecutive day the positivity rate was over 9%.
There have been more than 1,000 deaths in Hillsborough County alone.
Another surge of cases is expected around mid-January after people gather for the winter holidays.
“If we can get 10% more individuals, residents and our communities to simply wear a mask, we can reduce that Mount Everest spike into a veritable speed bump in the road,” Castor said.
And with Super Bowl 2021 just two months away, Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard is pleading with residents to help events like that continue.
"My father used to always say God helps those who help themselves," Hibbard said. "Well, we can really position ourselves for February if we come together as a community."