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St. Petersburg will require workers at local businesses to wear masks in areas open to customers

A new mask requirement for anyone living in St. Pete could be coming soon, too.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — As Florida continues to reopen despite recent spikes in new COVID-19 cases, St. Petersburg is cracking down to fight the spread of the coronavirus.

Effective at 5 p.m. Friday, all employees at St. Pete businesses will be required to wear face masks or coverings while in parts of the businesses that are open to the public. This applies to all establishments in the city limits, including bars, restaurants, gyms, retail shops, entertainment centers, barbershops, salons and more.

The municipal ordinance taking effect Friday will include "common sense exceptions," including for people who are unable to wear masks due to medical conditions.

However, if businesses fail to adhere to the new ordinance, they face fines or sanctions from the city.

"We intend on taking this seriously. As such, don't expect to simply receive a warning if you are not in compliance with this order, or the governor's order or the county order. Consider this your warning," St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman announced on Wednesday during a Facebook Live news conference.

If a business doesn’t comply, it’s a municipal ordinance violation. Those violations typically range from $93 to $218 for a first offense, and can reach $513 for repeated offenses.

Kriseman asked anyone who sees a violation to call the St. Pete Police Department's non-emergency phone number: 727-893-7780.

“We will be working with fire inspectors and code inspectors," explained St. Pete Police Chief Anthony Holloway. "And they’ll go out to those locations, and giving those owners tickets or managers tickets because they are not staying within the regulations that the mayor has set."

The mayor said businesses will also be required to develop workplace-specific plans for how they are reducing exposure to COVID-19.

Additionally, Kriseman has asked the city attorney's office to draft an order requiring all residents to wear masks when entering indoor places shared by groups of people -- with the exception of homes. That order isn't yet complete. And, he's not expected to enact it prior to this weekend.

But, he's asking people to wear masks regardless, and that order could be coming soon.

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