Along with announcing Florida would move into Phase 3 of reopening, Gov. Ron DeSantis said the collection of fines and penalties for violating mask ordinances would stop.
The news caused confusion among local business owners — some who felt they now had the choice to not enforce or require masks, others who worried that their customers wouldn’t follow the local orders still in place.
The governor’s office did not respond to a request to clarify how the executive order affects local mask ordinances.
“I have no idea what to expect,” said Amanda Henderson, the owner of Ashe Couture Boutique. “We’ll still be requesting it, but of course we just kind of hope that everybody will kind of respect our request.”
Henderson said in the past few months customers respected the mask ordinance. When they would see the ‘no mask, no entrance’ sign on the door, Henderson saw some customers run back to their cars to get one before coming inside.
Eniko Olah, the owner of Sans Market, also said customers have been complying and not complaining about wearing masks inside. She said the store employees will continue to mandate customers wear masks inside, or take one of their free ones to use. The small zero-waste store doesn’t have enough room for people to social distance inside, Olah said.
“I think it’s good we’re moving into a new phase but it’s always good to be cautious,” she said.
“Were going to be extra safe and I think that’s the best way to do things.”
Olah said they’ll continue to monitor the cases, and when cases come down may consider making mask enforcement indoors optional.
When gyms were closed, Kathy Bergstrom said her business Jungle Gym could have gone under if it weren’t for a landlord agreeing to reduce their rent.
The gym, which works with a lot of children who are dropped off by older parents or grandparents, is still working out the best approach to masks after the Friday announcement, Bergstrom said.
“It’s something we’re trying to be sensitive to due to the fact there are still individuals out there who are really fearful,” she said.
She said adults who work in the open gym can navigate wearing a mask on their own, but for the kid’s area they’re trying to be respectful.
“We are of the opinion that everybody should have the freedom to choose whether or not they want to choose the mask, but when it comes to the gym we don’t want to lose our clientele,” Bergstrom said. “Because there are some that are so sensitive to the situation and won’t return if we aren’t requiring masks.”
For Suncoast Fitness co-owner Bob Buchanan, he hopes strong relationships with the gym members will help them discuss mask wearing. The new capacity requirements won’t likely impact the gym, Buchanan said, because it has been large enough that even with about 300 people inside it wasn’t at 50 percent capacity.
The gym’s cleaning crews and sanitation stations will continue. Some machines that had been closed because of closeness to other machines will be opened.
“We enforced the mask requirement and we’re not going to relax that now,” Buchanan said. “That part’s a little bit fuzzy in terms of what you can do and cannot do. We feel it’s a good thing, so were just gonna let it ride and continue to do what we’ve been doing in the past.”
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