TAMPA —If you want to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of Super Bowl festivities in Tampa over the next ten days, prepare to wear a mask.
Mayor Jane Castor issued an executive order Thursday that will require masks to be worn in most of the city’s popular destinations, including downtown, the Riverwalk, Armature Works and Ybor City until Feb. 13, six days after the Super Bowl 55′s trophy is handed to either the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the Kansas City Chiefs.
The popular SoHO bar district, Channel District and neighborhoods around Raymond James Stadium also fall within the boundaries of Castor’s order.
Barry O’Conner, managing member of MacDinton’s and Yard of Ale, said the mayor’s action is confusing. There is a lack of clarity about enforcement, he said.
“Are we supposed to police people on the street?” O’Conner asked.
The order contains other ambiguities.
The order is designed to be voluntary, but as a “last resort,” the order states violators can be cited with a “nominal civil infraction” that carries a penalty up to a $500 fine.
It’s unclear how that penalty will coexist with Gov. Ron DeSantis’s previous order that individuals couldn’t be fined for violating pandemic restrictions.
City officials didn’t directly clarify that issue Thursday.
“The purpose of the Executive Order is to educate and encourage safe behavior. Any enforcement taken will depend on the facts and circumstances of a particular case,” texted Castor spokeswoman Ashley Bauman.
Castor said her decision keeps Super Bowl crowds safe and helps ensure the Super Bowl isn’t going to be the latest super-spreader event.
“We are incredibly excited to host a fun and safe Super Bowl here in Tampa — but we need everyone to do their part. We want fans to feel confident knowing that when they come out to celebrate Super Bowl LV, they can do so safely in a city that takes this pandemic seriously,” said Castor in a statement Thursday morning.
Castor first announced the mask order during a Facebook Live appearance Wednesday afternoon with Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas. Thursday’s order fleshed out the details.
Super Bowl 55 host committee CEO Rob Higgins praised the move in the news release, saying it would “enhance the health and safety of the Super Bowl Experience.”
Castor’s order does include exemptions, similar to those contained in a previous order approved in August, which covered indoor activities and remains in effect. Those exceptions include, children under 5 years of age, residents in areas covered by the order— (including family members or companions outside their homes), people working in jobs where masks would prevent them from performing their duties, people with certain health conditions and communications involving the hearing impaired.
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During Castor’s Wednesday Facebook Live appearance, one of her guests, Dr. Edwin Michael, a University of South Florida epidemiologist, said modeling predicted an increase in virus transmissions during Super Bowl weekend from Feb. 5 to Feb. 8. The model predicted a 25 percent reduction in social distancing during that period.
But the uptick won’t last long, Michael predicted.
“It will lead to a spike, then it will fade away,” he said.
To read Castor’s executive order and to view maps of the covered areas, go here.
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