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Lack of mask mandates in Florida leads local businesses to create their own rules

Bandit Coffee Co. in St. Petersburg changed their whole business model and never reopened their indoor café.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — With COVID-19 cases surging in Florida, many mayors and county leaders want to ramp up restrictions....but they can't.

Governor DeSantis suspended all local pandemic orders in May, taking away the ability for a county commission or city council to enact a mask mandate.

Now, almost three months later experts are sounding the alarm about the highly transmissible delta variant dominating the state of Florida.

Earlier this week, the CDC once again started recommending masks for everyone indoors regardless of vaccination status in areas of substantial or high transmission, which includes the entire state of Florida and most of the Southeast.

Pinellas County Commissioner Pat Gerard says she'd consider a mask mandate if not for the governor's executive power blocking municipalities from enacting pandemic ordinances.

"We would certainly be discussing it in cooperation with our health department because they would love to see us institute a mask mandate again just because this is so much more transmissible," said Gerard, who knew of about a dozen people who came down with COVID in the last week.

The political limbo leaves businesses like Bandit Coffee Co. on Central Avenue in St. Petersburg to make their own decisions.

They've been contactless and curbside for sixteen months, converting their front door into a walkup window.

"We were able to create this patio situation that allowed us to have four more tables for more seating for guests under a nice shady oak tree," said Co-owner Sarah Weaver.

Up until this week, fully vaccinated team members had the option of ditching the face coverings but this week all staff decided to put the masks back on.

"We've been listening to the science and CDC guidelines," said Weaver who is proud of her team for being flexible and safe when it comes to the pandemic.

She said, "At the end of day we’re doing what we can do to keep our staff and community safe."

In a statement, a spokesperson for the governor said there were no plans to rescind the state's suspension of pandemic orders. \

"Every Floridian is free to make their own decisions, and some might choose to stay home, wear masks, or take other precautions if they feel more comfortable doing so," the spokesperson said. 

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