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St. Augustine mask mandate now a thing of the past

“We are no longer in a position to enforce penalties or fines for people who don’t wear masks," City of St. Augustine Communications Manager Melissa Wissel said.

FLORIDA, USA — Phase 3 of Florida's reopening is underway, but don't leave your masks at home just yet.

The City of Jacksonville extended its mask mandate Sunday for another 30 days, and there are no plans to lift it at this time. 

So, if you’re inside and cannot social distance, the city said you are supposed to wear a mask. Plus, businesses can require masks for service.

Although, St. Augustine's current mask mandate is a thing of the past. As of Monday, face coverings are now just required for all in-person public meetings and hearings.

“We are no longer in a position to enforce penalties or fines for people who don’t wear masks," City of St. Augustine Communications Manager Melissa Wissel said.

She explained the city was surprised by Governor Ron DeSantis’ announcement Friday suspending all outstanding civil violations for not following mandatory mask orders, but said St. Augustine has to adapt.

However, Wissel expects local businesses will be more confident requiring face coverings after this time the mandate has been in place.

“We just hope that businesses are comfortable continuing with their own enforcement and their own policies of what they are comfortable with," she said, "and their customers understand that and that people aren't going to give them a hard time with it.”

Osprey Tacos owner Erica Thompson is trying to find the balance.

“Do we need to continue to encourage masks as much as we can? I mean, that's what we would like to do," the St. Augustine business owner said. "But we also don't want to overstep our boundaries and respect people's decisions if the governor says they can do what they want to do.”

Thompson said she plans to “strongly encourage” customers to wear face coverings by putting signs around the restaurant thanking those who mask-up and continuing to have all employees wear them.

“Hopefully to show people that it's important to us and our family and our staff," she explained. "But I think that's as far as we can go, and we'll just hope that people respect social distancing to hopefully keep COVID-19 at bay.”