Bradenton Beach commission recommends face masks

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Patrons, some with face masks and some who social distance, congregate at the dockside bar July 14 outside the Bridge Tender Inn, 135 Bridge St., Bradenton Beach. Islander Photo: Ryan Paice

Bradenton Beach officials may not support a mandatory face mask policy, but they’re sending a message about wearing coverings in the pandemic.

City commissioners reached consensus July 14 to direct Mayor John Chappie to work with staff to create a public safety announcement, as well as banners at the city’s three entrances, to encourage people to wear face coverings when they can’t socially distance.

Face masks have been shown to limit disease spread by blocking exhaled droplets that may contain the virus from making their way to someone else.

Without federal, state or county face mask requirements, Anna Maria and Holmes Beach commissioners voted June 25 to mandate face coverings in many public situations in an attempt to combat the spread of COVID-19 as the number of coronavirus cases continued to surge.

Longboat Key commissioners also adopted a mandatory face mask ordinance.

Additionally, on the mainland, Bradenton passed an ordinance July 15 requiring business owners to post signage encouraging patrons to wear masks within their establishments. The ordinance does not require people to wear the coverings.

Bradenton Beach city commissioners hadn’t discussed the issue in a meeting forum before resident Connie Morrow asked for their opinions during public comment at a July 14 meeting.

“One of the things that I’ve noticed is that the commission has not discussed wearing masks,” Morrow said. “I would appreciate it if the members of the commission would discuss the pros and cons of wearing masks or putting out a strong recommendation for people to wear masks in Bradenton Beach.”

Commissioner Jan Vosburgh said she was hesitant to go beyond county and state guidelines, and neither the county nor the state have mandated masks.

“From what I see, everybody is wearing masks,” Vosburgh said. “I still feel like we should go by the county and the state — whatever they recommend.”

“People have a hard time breathing with them on,” she added.

Commissioner Ralph Cole agreed that city policy shouldn’t exceed regulations by the county or state and he wanted to encourage residents to wear the face coverings, which is what county and state officials have done.

“I encourage everybody that needs to wear a mask to wear a mask,” Cole said. “Protect yourself.”

Chappie also said he’d like to send a message to encourage people to wear face masks if they are unable to social distance.

“I think it would behoove us as a city,” he said. “Anything we can do to try to get (people) to be personally responsible is important.”

Chappie suggested he work with city clerk Terri Sanclemente on a PSA. He also recommended creating banners for the city’s entrances — the intersection of Gulf Drive and Cortez Road, the Longboat Key Bridge and the intersection of Gulf Drive and 27th Street.

Commissioner Marilyn Maro said the city also should issue PSAs to vacation rental property owners asking them to encourage renters to wear face masks.

And Lt. John Cosby suggested using three sandwich board signs to spread the message on Bridge Street.

Commissioners did not allocate money for the banners and signage, but instead hope to use “Mask Up” signs provided by the county. Apparently, the city will distribute the county’s signs to local businesses to encourage patrons to wear masks.

Commissioners also agreed to extend the city’s state of emergency regarding the COVID-19 pandemic for another seven days. They were to meet Tuesday, July 21, to again consider extending the state of emergency.