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Tampa Mayor Jane Castor announces mask partnership with retail heavyweights Publix, Target and more

The mayor announced Wednesday that the program aims to have store employees and customers wearing masks by the end of the month.

TAMPA — Her bid for a mandatory mask order didn’t even reach a vote last week at the county’s Emergency Policy Group, but Tampa Mayor Jane Castor is pushing on anyway with a public-private partnership.

On Wednesday, the mayor’s office unveiled a program with Publix, Walgreens, Home Depot and other major retailers to equip store employees with face coverings and encourage customers to don masks when shopping.

“The widespread use of face coverings in our community is a proven and critical step to not only flattening the curve but staying ahead of it.” said Castor in a statement. “The sooner we move to widespread testing and the use of face coverings, the sooner we will be able to reopen our businesses and get back to our daily lives.”

Other participants include Winn Dixie, Walmart, Sam’s Club, Target, Tampa Electric and TECO People’s Gas, CVS Pharmacy, Moffitt Cancer Center and AdventHealth. The companies have agreed to equip their workers who deal with the public with face masks as soon as possible.

Even given commercial face mask shortages, the companies have pledged to acquire masks quickly. And customers will be strongly encouraged to don face coverings when shopping or seeking services in those businesses.

Castor’s bid for Hillsborough County to issue an order requiring face masks to be worn in most public settings looked like it would be implemented early last week. But on Thursday, the county’s emergency policy group backed away from the measure with Sheriff Chad Chronister and others among the group’s eight members saying a mandatory order would be counterproductive.

Related: Hillsborough County won't require masks in public

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