ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – It’s easier than ever for St. Augustine locals to pick out the tourists in the city as officials report the majority of visitors aren’t wearing face masks. In the last several weeks, health officials local, state, and federal have recommended people who go in public wear a face mask to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
A tourist News4jax spoke to said he had been wearing masks while in public, but he feels comfortable going without one now.
“I’m done with them. I’ve been wearing one for three and a half months. I don’t think it’s necessary,” the tourist visiting from upstate New York said.
Terry Lee and his wife who are visiting from Atlanta, Georgia said they also left their masks at home, but are still taking other precautions.
“We keep our hands clean,; don’t touch our face. Keep a safe distance from everybody. Lots of hand sanitizing,” he said.
Lee said while he wasn’t wearing a mask that the current moment, he understands how important wearing a mask is.
“Our employees wear masks. We’ve got our dining area shut down, but a lot of businesses right around me are probably not going to be able to open back up," he said referencing the barbecue he owns in Atlanta.
The divide between tourists and locals has become so apparent that city officials and business owners have taken notice. Along St. George Street, several signs posted in store-fronts can now be seen encouraging people to mask up and to stay socially distant.
Wearing a mask is not required by law but is strongly recommended by health and government officials.
St. Augustine’s City Manager John Regan says his office is focusing hard on making up for the time tourism was shut down, but worries about the possibility of a second wave of coronavirus infections.
"Our message is a message of positive reinforcement," Regan said. "It's your choice, but be kind to others and kind to yourself and help us manage the risk of economic recovery by wearing a mask."
Where can I get a mask?
Masks are available for purchase at the St. Augustine Visitor Information Center on West Castillo Drive. A box of 50 costs $35. There is a limit of 2 boxes per person.
The city has also teamed up with St. Johns County for the Pledge St. Johns County program. It calls for businesses to pledge to follow safety guidelines. The pledge includes encouraging the use of face coverings, more cleaning and safety protocols, and encouraging limits on the number of people in a group. Among those.
While Sean has no plans to don the mask all day, he is following other important rules.
“I keep my distance for the most part,” Sean said. “I’m outside all the time. I don’t think I need to wear one all the time.”