Face mask mandates to slow the spread of Covid-19 may remain on Anna Maria Island for a while longer.
But how well are people following the mandates intended to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus?
So far, one case of noncompliance requiring police intervention has occurred in each of the three island cities.
A Bradenton Beach police officer trespassed a man Aug. 29 from the Daiquiri Deck, 107 Bridge St., for refusing to wear a face mask despite the Manatee County mandate, according to a Bradenton Beach Police Department report.
The county mandate requires people to wear face masks inside business establishments unless they are exempted or can socially distance.
The mandate also requires restaurant customers to wear face coverings from the entrance to their table, as well as when moving within the establishment.
The mandate remained in effect as of Sept. 7.
Holmes Beach and Anna Maria enacted mask orders prior to the county action. Bradenton Beach did not, but commissioners agreed to come under the county’s coverage.
The BBPD report states a man swore and displayed “a very nasty attitude” toward the restaurant staff, who had asked him to don a face covering.
Shaun Gileno, a manager at the restaurant, told The Islander Sept. 4 the incident was not isolated.
“It has been repeated,” he said. “A lot of people are coming in and they’re actually being a little rude about it.”
Gileno estimated one in five restaurant guests enter without face masks but said most comply after employees approach to offer a face covering or advise them that they must wear their own to comply with the county mandate.
“We try to be very reasonable with everybody,” Gileno said. “But a lot of people aren’t reasonable with us, and that’s what hurts.”
Lt. John Cosby said Sept. 4 businesses in the city have reported numerous cases of individuals that enter an establishment without a mask but most comply after being approached by staff.
However, he said the call to the Daiquiri Deck was the first time a police officer got involved due to the refusal to comply with the mask mandate.
“We haven’t really had any problems at all. That was our first,” Cosby said. “Everybody seems to be complying. I haven’t heard any other complaints from business owners in the city.”
“As life starts to return a little bit more to normal, I think people are honestly just forgetting,” he said.
Under the county mask mandate, only individuals who refuse to wear masks are penalized. Businesses are not responsible for gaining compliance from customers under the county rules.
Violators cited for a first offense receive written warnings. A violator would be fined $50 for a second offense, $125 for a third offense and $250 for subsequent offenses.
Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer said HBPD recently trespassed someone for refusing to wear a mask in a Holmes Beach convenience store.
“He was asked to leave, and he did,” he said. “That was the only call we’ve received.”
Tokajer said the mandate enacted in late June puts the onus for enforcing its requirements on business owners.
Businesses that fail to enforce the city mandate would receive a verbal warning for a first offense, a $250 fine for a second offense and $500 fines for any subsequent offenses.
“Instead of us having to worry about 10,000 people a day, we have to monitor 50-60 businesses that are handling their own establishments,” he said. “It’s working fine.”
Holmes Beach code compliance supervisor JT Thomas said Sept. 4 that he had received numerous anonymous complaints about noncompliance with the city mandate, with many coming from customers at Publix, 3900 E. Bay Drive.
He said that, in an effort to increase compliance, code enforcement officers visited the store to educate staff about the mandate.
“Everybody goes there, so it could just be a population thing,” Thomas said. “But we gave them our ordinance. So it’s their responsibility to engage people about wearing masks… .I hope they’re good partners, like all of the others.”
Thomas said several businesses were slow to comply with the city mandate when it was issued. However, he said businesses have since come around.
“In the very beginning, it was kind of hard trying to get everyone to understand that they need to wear masks,” Thomas said. “I can honestly say that all of our businesses are on board with protecting their customers. I haven’t had one business tell me it’s a problem.”
No fines had been issued for violating the mask mandate in Holmes Beach as of Sept. 4.
In Anna Maria, a Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputy was dispatched to Two Scoops, 101 N. Bay Blvd., in late July in response to calls regarding a customer who refused to comply with the city mandate.
The city regulation makes individuals — not businesses — responsible for wearing face coverings in any indoor locations other than within a residence.
The mandate includes a $50 fine for violating the policy.
The order went into effect June 27 and has been renewed each week since by Mayor Dan Murphy.
Murphy wrote in a Sept. 4 email to The Islander that the city has had “no issues” with enforcing compliance with the mandate.
He added that the city hasn’t issued any fines for violations of the policy.