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Tampa Bay leaders cracking down on mask ordinance re-offenders

The Hillsborough County Commission passed new amendments to the mask ordinance after a few bars, clubs and restaurants ignore safety measures

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — No loitering at bars, gathering on dance floors and you must be seated to be served-- these new rules are now active in Hillsborough County after commissioners voted on Wednesday.

"The few businesses that aren't being good citizens in the community have got to be addressed," Mayor Jane Castor said.

Over the past two weeks, the Tampa Bay area has seen a spike in coronavirus cases. And with the upcoming holidays, many local leaders worry about a larger spike that may overwhelm hospitals. 

On Thursday, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, St Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman, Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners Chair Pat Kemp, Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners Chair Pat Gerard and City of Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard held a virtual press conference on COVID-19 safety enforcements.

"We've issued over 189 citations already and unfortunately there are multiple businesses that have multiple citations," Kriseman said.

Those repeat offenders prompted local action and new amendments to the current mask ordinance. 

"It requires people to be seated while eating and drinking and bans dance floors or loitering next to the bars," Mayor Castor said, stressing that just because a vaccine is out doesn't mean it's time to let down your guard.

"We won't have the rest of the community vaccinated for the next 6 months," Mayor Castor said. "We will have our code enforcement out this evening enforcing ordinances and it will be a civil infraction up to a $500 fine or a second-degree misdemeanor."

According to Castor, businesses taking responsibility for their actions, by stopping super spreader events, will help protect jobs too.

"We want our businesses to stay open and people to be employed and the easiest way to do that is to follow the rules," Kriseman said.

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