DUNEDIN — Concerns about coronavirus prompted Commissioner Deborah Kynes to suggest that city officials consider having requirements pertaining to masks.

Kynes brought the issue up at the City Commission's workshop meeting June 16.

With cases spiking recently, Kynes said commissioners should talk about wearing masks being more of a mandate. 

"We've got to be the leader at our centers, and our libraries, our museums. We will talk about that later, but I'm really thinking we need to re-evaluate about how strongly we recommend masks," she said.

Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski said she also was concerned about the mask issue given that cases have increased in Dunedin significantly. 

"And we went a very long time without increases," she said. 

Commissioners continued their discussion June 18 on the issue, noting that county officials are working on an order requiring that people wear mask in public areas. Their action followed similar measures by the city of St. Petersburg last week.

County officials are also going to begin enforcing capacity limits, Bujalski said.

"I think having consistency countywide is so important with 24 cities. You automatically dilute the effectiveness of this by not having the same steps taken everywhere."

Commissioner Moe Freaney said she watched the County Commission meeting and was impressed with their discussion on the issue, noting that medical specialists were involved.

Freaney said she was surprised by a number of downtown Dunedin business employees who aren't wearing masks any more when she visited a restaurant recently.

She implored businesses to make sure employees wear masks.

"If there's a breakout in some of those restaurants, we will all go backwards," she said. "And that's not where we want to be. We have a lot to lose. It's just a mask."

Commissioner Heather Gracy said county commissioners had a good discussion and have a "great path forward," but she was concerned about the enforcement of it and the fining of it.

"I'm sure that will get massaged through," Gracy said.

Gow also agreed that county officials had a good dialogue, essentially saying it's not "a big deal" to wear a mask.

"I don't want to wear a mask but if it makes everybody else feel better that I wear mask, then wear the mask," he said. "I don't see the challenge of that."

Some residents sent emails to commissioners encouraging them to make masks mandatory.

Commissioners will wait to see what action county commissioners take in forming their emergency order before deciding if they need to take other measures.

If they took action June 18, city officials wouldn't have anybody to enforce their regulations because county officials are deciding how to enforce such measures through the Sheriff's Office, which serves Dunedin, Bujalski said.

"We don't want to put something out there that we can't message or enforce because we are not ready," she said

Hale Center to open in July

Bujalski asked city Recreation Director Vince Gizzi June 16 about the status of the reopening of Hale Senior Activity Center.

Gizzi said staff is looking at opening the facility slowly, sometime after July 4 on a Monday through Friday schedule.

"We are looking at specific programs," he said, limited to one room because of meetings that will be held in the ballroom.

"You have lots of space for people to spread out in the ballroom," Gizzi said.

Dancing or card programs will be excluded, but arts and crafts activities and chair-exercise classes will be slated.

"Number one, I think it's so important that we offer our seniors some socialization activities," Bujalski said.

She also wanted to know if there was a place in the city where some of the exercise activities will be held indoors. 

In the next couple of weeks city officials are looking to start the evening classes indoors at the Community Center, Gizzi said.

"We also increased the attendees at our camps from 9 to 14 and so we are just trying to proceed with caution before we open up the rooms for exercise during the day," he said.

City Clerk Rebecca Schlichter said city officials are in the planning stages of having City Commission meetings, embracing social distancing measures, in the Hale Center ballroom beginning in July. 

Staff members met recently and came up with a plan for the meetings to ensure all commissioners and other attendees are eight feet apart. Commissioners have been holding virtual meetings.

"It will be nice to be back together," Gow said.