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Tampa’s Jane Castor: Crackdown looms for violations of coronavirus restrictions

The mayor said business owners “blatantly violating” safety measures will be targeted.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor announced late Wednesday that a regional enforcement effort targeting business owners who violate local mask orders will be rolled out Thursday.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor announced late Wednesday that a regional enforcement effort targeting business owners who violate local mask orders will be rolled out Thursday. [ Charlie Frago ]
Published Dec. 16, 2020|Updated Dec. 17, 2020

TAMPA — Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said a regional enforcement effort will be announced Thursday morning in an effort to crack down on local business owners who ignore social distancing and mask orders.

Those businesses who are “blatantly violating” safety measures recommended to stop the spread of the coronavirus will be targeted, the mayor said in a Facebook Live address Wednesday afternoon.

The virtual news conference will be held at 11 a.m. and Castor will be joined by St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard, Hillsborough County Commission chairwoman Pat Kemp and Pinellas County Commission chairwowman Pat Gerard, according to a city spokeswoman.

Castor’s announcement came hours after Hillsborough County Commissioners, in a 5-2 vote, approved expanded an existing order to prohibit people from standing at bars to eat and drink or from gathering on the dance floor.

Related: Hillsborough County okays tougher face mask rule

Hillsborough’s order now mirrors Pinellas County’s order, which exempts people from wearing face masks only if they’re eating or drinking.

Hillsborough’s new rule also bars people from congregating on dance floors.

In September, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order allowing bars and restaurants to operate at greater capacities while removing local governments’ ability to enforce their mask requirements on individuals. The order, however, did not exempt businesses and Hillsborough’s ordinance says businesses must make a reasonable attempt to enforce the local order.

The enforcement efforts to be announced Thursday will likely follow the county’s new order, said Castor spokeswoman Ashley Bauman. She said that each municipality will have different enforcement “as we’re all different.”

Castor didn’t brief DeSantis or his administration on the region’s plans before breaking the news, said Bauman.

“This enforcement is focused on the safety of our region,” Bauman said.

The city sent officials last weekend to establishments to warn them, she said.

Times staff writer C.T. Bowen contributed to this story.

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