Tampa Mayor wants help in identifying maskless Super Bowl fans so police can ‘handle’ the ‘bad actors’

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TAMPA, FL — Over the past year, the pandemic has caused people to adapt to the frequently changing guidelines and rules made by health officials and politicians.

Conflicting information, suppressed therapies and outright hypocrisy have added angst to the issue of dealing with COVID-19.

Who makes the rules and who has to follow them?

It would be nice if the rules were universal, clear and fair. However, that is not always the case.

The mayor of the beautiful city of Tampa got me thinking again about how the pandemic goalposts keep changing. She recently labeled maskless people as “bad actors” and basically regarded restaurants and bars as criminal entities for hosting them.

This bothers me because I am conflicted about politicians and their demonization of people who shun masks, but are then caught not wearing them either.

These politicians are particularly hypocritical because they will use precious law enforcement resources to penalize others for behavior that they themselves are engaging in.

I will disclose that I currently take a middle-of-the-road approach to masks. Initially, I was worried and upset at others who did not wear them. Over time, I had questions. Now, I believe clean masks provide some protection, but acknowledge they are not foolproof.

I think masks, along with sanitization and social distancing, have cut down the transmission of the flu incredibly, but it is curious why masks have not been as effective against stopping COVID-19.

We are still on a learning curve with a new, evolving virus, but I digress.

Let’s talk politicians.

If President Joe Biden mails me a damn mask, it better be “Made in the USA.” That’s all I’ve got to say about that!

Politicians have attempted to address the pandemic through ever-changing legislative mandates. Sometimes they appear biased and push legislation that suits their political purposes, which reminds me of the Democrat mayor of Tampa, Jane Castor.

With an ill-fitting mask slipping down her own face, the mayor encouraged everyone to wear a mask to the Super Bowl and said they could “scream as loud” as they wanted while wearing one although that is not recommended by health officials.

On Sunday, her city hosted Super Bowl LV at the Raymond James Stadium, home turf for the Buccaneers who defeated the Chiefs with a score of 31 to 9.

To meet coronavirus protocols, the NFL capped the crowd at under 25,000 in a stadium that normally holds some 66,000 fans, and masks were required.

Makes sense.

However, during the game, which included a cardboard cutout audience, some people were seen not wearing masks.

In addition, quarterback Tom Brady was seen nonchalantly entering the stadium without a mask. After the game, maskless fans celebrated on the streets and in bars, and the mayor was definitely upset.

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However, there wasn’t as much uproar when people were previously seen not wearing masks in Tampa during New Year’s Eve or when the Stanley Cup was won by the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team in the fall.

Castor acknowledged there were no major spikes in COVID-19 cases last fall after the Stanley Cup win. There were outdoor celebrations surrounding that victory too. The mayor told Associated Press:

“We didn’t see those spikes after the Stanley Cup events.”

Social media posted pictures of a maskless Castor presumably at the hockey game.

However, the Super Bowl suddenly became a super-spreader event.

The day after the Super Bowl, Mayor Castor held a press conference and said that maskless fans at the Super Bowl would be “identified” by law enforcement and that police were going to “handle the situation.”

Oh, really? Florida has never had a uniform mask policy.

 

In January, the mayor issued Executive Order 2021-07, which required people to wear face coverings during the Super Bowl festivities, even when outdoors.

At the press conference, Castor noted violators would face a “civil infraction,” which carries up to a $500 fine. However, local orders were overridden last year by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

His executive order made it difficult for local governments to enforce mask policies because it prohibited them from fining people who don’t comply, according to Associated Press.

The mayor’s executive order states that citations can be issued “to any establishments that are not enforcing local face mask orders.”

Therefore, it seems individuals, including Brady, cannot be fined for walking around maskless, but the businesses they patronize can. According to Tampa’s order:

“Similar to other Florida counties and cities, Tampa may impose fines and penalties on business owners that do not enforce the local face mask orders in their establishments.

 “The City of Tampa is exploring other options similar to those enforcement actions taken in the region, state and across the country.”

Castor has not been a fan of bars for quite some time.

KHN reported that last year the mayor said she preferred to see bars closed in order to prevent people from transmitting COVID-19. Castor referred to bars as a “veritable petri dish for infection.”

Over the summer, the mayor unsuccessfully lobbied the commissioners of Hillsborough County to use federal COVID-19 funds to pay bars to stay closed. The county controlled the CARES Act funding that came from the federal government.

Then Castor’s attempts to shut down the bars were finally stopped after Gov. DeSantis in September took that power away from local governments, along with their ability to enforce mask mandates against customers.

Florida ordered all bars and breweries to close from March to September, except for three weeks in June. DeSantis reopened bars in September, but only to 50% capacity.

Various media reported it wasn’t clear on Monday how many citations the city handed out, if any, in the aftermath of the Super Bowl.

 

Like Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Tampa’s mayor has been accused of violating her own order to wear a mask. Tampa Free Press published three photos of a maskless Castor, purportedly from last fall, and reported:

“The vast majority of residents may, in fact, be acting responsibly, but Mayor Jane Castor is actually a bad actor. Since instituting strict COVID-19 restrictions in the spring of last year, Castor has been photographed at public and private events where she is not wearing a mask and clearly violating her own order.

“Additionally, the city, under Castor’s ‘leadership’ has permitted large gatherings of people without enforcing social distancing restrictions as she did following the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Stanley Cup victory in September. Without a word about COVID-19 restrictions, Castor allowed a boat parade, a large public celebration at Raymond James Stadium, and gatherings of fans outside Amalie Arena.”

Now the mayor wants the police involved, even though her executive order essentially makes the restaurants and bars police patrons in order to avoid hefty fines.

Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan, who recently recovered from the coronavirus himself, told The Tampa Bay Times that he did not want his department to be the “mask police,” but he agreed about the wisdom of using masks:

“I certainly think we can do it but it’s going to require everyone to use common sense and use the universal precautions that are out there — hand sanitizer, social distancing and mask wearing. It’s proven that it works.

“I went almost a year without getting (COVID-19) and I finally did get it, but prior to that I had been around other people who came down with the virus and I never got it, so I’m a firm believer in wearing a mask and practicing social distancing.”

The Tampa Bay Times had grilled the chief on what police would do when they encountered maskless people. Dugan said:

“The police department’s role is we’re going to be educating and reminding. We don’t want to be the mask police, so to speak. We will if we have to.”

When pushed on how police will enforce rules, the chief said issuing citations would be “a last resort.” He also hoped that people would comply with requests to put on masks:

“It’s more about education and reminding. That’s really what it’s going to come down to. It’s going to be about reminding people and trying to encourage them to be good citizens.”

Dugan also pointed out that despite pandemic-related duties, his department would be focused on typical law enforcement work:

“Safety and security comes first, and then mask enforcement would be part of that but it certainly is not the priority. It’s keeping everybody safe from harm’s way, and mask enforcement is keeping them safe from the pandemic. First and foremost are traffic control and crowd control and security.”

Associated Press reported Florida has recorded 1.7 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus and more than 28,000 deaths, according to state health records. State officials said Sunday that 667,830 people in Florida had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Dr. Jay Wolfson, Associate Vice President of USF Health, told Creative Loafing of Tampa Bay that Sunday night’s behavior was expected:

“Everybody knew and knows the rules. Human behavior took over ‘just this once’ – and for most, it will not be consequential. But we had tens of thousands of out of state visitors, bringing with them whatever they may have acquired – and they will be taking whatever they might pick up here back to Kansas City and elsewhere in the U.S.

“And everybody participated in the joyous celebrations – many in large groups, in close quarters (even outdoors) cheering, yelling, singing – without masks and no social distancing.

“Many venue owners really did their best to control behaviors. And that was the case for the managers of the public venues as well. But we simply do not have the resources nor the cultural dynamics to expect to be able to control behaviors at a time and place like this.”


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