The St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce presents: Coronavirus Impact Insights. Click the play arrow above to watch the full video.
On this episode, Chris Steinocher, CEO of the St. Petersburg Chamber shares the Chamber’s “St. Pete Way” plan, focused on the Four R’s: Relieve, Reopen, Recover and Reimagine – as well as guidance for reopening the economy under Governor Ron DeSantis’ Phase One plan.
Following a six hour meeting with the City Council’s Committee of the Whole, Steinocher shares takeaways and perspectives from city leaders. The overarching theme? Safety first, Steinocher explains. Reopening the economy is a delicate balance that cannot be rushed.
“[Phase One] is a very first step to ensure that we can go back to normal. If we, in the next four weeks, take the steps each two weeks to do this correctly, we can get out of this,” Steinocher explains. “But we have got to make sure that we have a commitment from you as a consumer, you as an employee and you as an employer to do this first.”
Steinocher puts recovery is stark economic terms. If we take the right measured approach, he says, we can expect a V-shaped recovery, with a sharp dip and a strong rebound. But, if we rush to reopen too quickly, we could see a U-shaped recovery, with a prolonged low period and repeated closures of the economy.
With the V-shaped recovery, Steinocher says we could lose just 2.3 percent of our GDP, and find ourselves in recovery by Q4 of 2020. If we wend up in the U-shaped recovery, losses could be as high as 8.9 percent, with recovery lagging until Q2 of 2024.
Steinocher explains that we can learn from other countries as we approach reopening. From Hong Kong and Singapore, we can learn not to reopen too quickly. From South Korea, we can learn from a highly measured and careful approach.
The indicators that Mayor Rick Kriseman said would need to be met for reopening will continue to be monitored, Steinocher explains, and a resurgence in cases could trigger further closures.
Kriseman’s criteria are:
- Percentage of positive tests do not increase for 14 consecutive days.
- Hospital capacity remains strong, as hospitals plan to restart elective procedures and care outside of Covid-19.
- Testing is available to each person who presents symptoms and test results can be obtained within a reasonable window, defined as within 24-48 hours.
- The city/county has developed the ability to contact trace, or monitor the contacts of infected persons.
Steinocher asks every business owner to pay attention, know the important numbers and create workplace guidelines that support a safe environment for employees and customers. One of the most important factors in businesses’ ability to reopen will be the amount of personal protective equipment (PPE) available to non-emergency personnel. The St. Pete Way calls for a supply chain initiative called Source Pinellas to help increase the supply chain of PPE, so that employers can put their employees back to work safely without depleting healthcare resources.
While local officials are beginning to turn their attention to reopening, Steinocher urges residents and leaders not to forget about the importance of relief efforts like the Fighting Chance Fund or the Pinellas CARES Act, efforts that he believes will be needed for at least a year. He also asks the community be focused on equity in relief, ensuring that every member of the community has the support they need.
Finally, Steinocher shares that Kriseman has announced his alignment with the guidance of Gov. Ron DeSantis for Phase One. Kriseman told St. Petersburg City Council Thursday that he does not expect to further restrict the reopening orders announced by DeSantis Wednesday evening, but that his team will review DeSantis’ order alongside the decisions made by the Pinellas County Board of Commissioners Friday.
Phase One, which goes into effect Monday, May 4, does not entail major changes for most individuals, but it does allow nonessential businesses to reopen at 25 percent capacity – and for restaurants to reopen outdoor seating and dine-in service at 25 percent capacity.
Kriseman released a statement of guidance to restaurants and reopening businesses:
“Related to restaurants in St. Petersburg, they may prepare to follow the state’s order permitting them to open at 25 percent occupancy indoors and with six foot spacing between tables outdoors beginning on May 4th, 2020. I want to be clear that the state’s order does not require restaurants and retail establishments to open on Monday, it simply permits them to do so if they choose to do so. Retail establishments that were previously closed may also reopen on Monday at 25 percent occupancy. Our current reading of the recent order is that localities cannot expand the governor’s restrictions, only further restrict them, and I will not do that in this instance.
“I can assure all restaurateurs and business owners in St. Petersburg that they will have time to prepare if I were to further restrict a state order. It is important that our restaurants and retail establishments have clarity as soon as possible and that there is uniformity whenever possible.”