Anna Maria holds firm on mask mandate, outdoors, too

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Tillman Thomas, left, Grumpy’s Farm Market owner, and John Nason work in masks at the Oct. 13 farmers market. Islander Photo: Ryan Paice

Anna Maria is holding firm with face covering and social distance requirements in the city to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan prohibits local governments from issuing fines for violating pandemic-related orders, such as municipal mask mandates.

However, with around 3,000 Floridians testing positive for the virus every day and 15,735 dead since March, many people continue wearing face masks and social distancing. The virus spreads through close contact and can be airborne.

To that end, Mayor Dan Murphy issued two new orders to replace the city’s mask mandate, which previously included a $50 fine for violations.

One order grants businesses and special events within city limits the right to require face masks and to enforce the requirement by trespassing violators.

Another order requires people to wear face coverings and maintain at least 6 feet of social distancing while at city properties, including city hall, the city hall annex on Pine Avenue and at City Pier Park.

Violators “shall be subject to removal from the city location,” according to the order.

The launch of the 2020-21 Anna Maria Farmers Market at City Pier Park Oct. 13 was one of the first special events in the park since the pandemic closed events and an early test for the new orders.

Deputy clerk Debbie Haynes wrote in an Oct. 14 email to The Islander that there were no issues enforcing the face mask and social distancing requirements for both vendors and marketgoers at the event.

A code enforcement officer stationed at the park had to give “only a few reminders to put on masks,” she said.

So far, the market vendors are satisfied with the city’s safety measures, Haynes said.

“The vendors I spoke with were pleased with the first day,” Haynes wrote, adding “No requests for changes for next week’s market.”

The market runs 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesdays through May 11, 2021.

A couple of marketgoers told The Islander they were happy with the event’s safety measures.

“I think it’s safe the way it is,” marketgoer Miguel Acosta said. “It’s spaced out. If there were more people it’d need more space, but it’s fine the way it is. It’s outside, too.”

“It’s nice to have it,” he added. “It’s a little something different than going to the beach or the pool.”

“If they implemented even more safety measures, I think it would probably discourage people from coming because then you lose the vibe that you want,” Indiana-resident and longtime visitor Tom Cates said. “But I wouldn’t do less. They’re probably at a happy medium right now.”

“I like what they’re doing with the market,” he added. “They could even expand it a little bit, add more vendors and advertise it a bit more.”

Another special event planned for city property will be the Vintage Flea Market on Sunday, Nov. 8, at City Pier Park, with the same face mask and social distance requirements as the farmers market.

The event — which will run 8 a.m.-4 p.m. — will be coordinated by Michelle Brunone, who has staged the vintage flea market for several years. This year won’t be like any that have come before.

“It is new to all of us and we still are a handful of weeks away from our first market on city property,” Brunone wrote in an Oct. 15 email to The Islander. “I will be taking instruction from the city as to what they require regarding safety guidelines.”

She declined to comment further.

Murphy expressed confidence in Brunone, who told the commission Oct. 8 that she would uphold the city’s orders.

“If someone chooses to violate the order, we are confident that they will be properly addressed,” Murphy wrote in an Oct. 14 email. “We are also confident that she can and will enforce the order to the best of her ability.”

“Brunone has been doing business with this city for many years and we know her as a person who keeps her word,” he added.

However, there was no clear answer for what would happen if a special event coordinator refused to uphold the city’s orders.

Murphy did not respond to an Oct. 14 email from The Islander regarding repercussions for event coordinators using city property who refuse to uphold face mask and social distancing requirements.

Both orders expire every seven days, so Murphy can renew or modify them on a weekly basis.