Florida cities, including Orlando and Tampa, are now requiring residents to wear face masks in public – as the state grapples with a surge in coronavirus cases.
The mandatory order is in effect in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Orange County, according to News4Jax.
Orange County, which includes Orlando, was the first to make masks mandatory, which apply to any person “living, visiting or doing business” there.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor implemented the rule following an emergency meeting Thursday.
“The only way to stop this is to wear a mask. That’s the only way,” Castor said, the Tampa Bay Times reported.“ I, for one, don’t want to wait until we get past the point of no return.”
The order in Tampa and St. Petersburg will take effect 5 p.m. Friday.
In Tampa, it applies to all indoor and outdoor locations outside the home when social distancing is not possible. It will be enforced with civil citations. Children under 2 are exempt and the city will dole out face masks to anyone who needs one.
Meanwhile, officials in neighboring Pinellas County, which includes St. Petersburg, are also weighing a mandatory mask order.
The Florida Keys is requiring visitors to wear face masks in indoor businesses until June 2021 — or face a $500 fine.
The Sunshine State has seen soaring rates of COVID-19 infections in recent days, with 3,207 people testing positive on Thursday alone — the largest single-day spike since the pandemic began.
In total, 83,854 people have tested positive and 3,061 have died, as of Thursday.
Gov. Ron DeSantis blamed the troubling rise on increased testing — and “overwhelmingly Hispanic” workers.
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