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'It's their own rule': St. Pete Mayor says businesses can enforce mask-wearing despite CDC guidance

It's one of Tampa Bay's most successful cities in terms of mitigating the spread of COVID-19. The city allowed its emergency order to expire Thursday night.

TAMPA, Fla — St. Petersburg is one of Tampa Bay's most successful cities in terms of mitigating the spread of COVID-19.

"Right now our numbers are going in the right direction. We’ve been able to get our two week positivity rate under four percent and actually, it dipped a little under four percent. We expect it to be somewhere between three and five which is exactly where we want to be," St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman said.

City officials hope the positive trends continue. Many neighbors in the city already feel comfortable enough to not wear a mask.  

"There's still a chance that people can still get COVID-19 if you have been vaccinated. That's why I think it's important for everyone to continue to wear their mask," St. Pete City Councilwoman Lisa Wheeler-Bowman said.

She was against the city's emergency order expiring on Thursday night, but even with the order, virtually no restrictions to mitigate the virus were possible.

"Based on the Governor's order from a week or so ago, mask mandates went away, social distancing went away. The requirements related to table spacing and having to be seating at large scale events, that all went away," Kriseman said.

Citing the CDC's new guidance for those who are fully vaccinated, Kriseman hopes it will help encourage more people to get the shot.

"I think it's a step that demonstrates we're making progress, but I also hope its an incentive for people and they recognize the quickest way to safely put my mask away is to get a vaccination," Kriseman said.

While there's no mask mandate in the city, Kriseman says businesses can still enforce the rule if they choose.

"It's their own rule. For the most part people are doing things what we call the St. Pete way. They are wearing masks when they're indoors. This new guidance just came out today and that might change things a little bit, but overall I must say I'm really pleased with the residents of St. Pete," Kriseman said.

RELATED: CDC: Fully vaccinated people can largely ditch masks indoors

RELATED: Gov. DeSantis suspends criminal charges for people, businesses that violated local COVID-19 restrictions

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