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City of St. Pete bans big gatherings, orders restaurants to cut occupancy in half

Margie Manning

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Mayor Rick Kriseman speaking from the city's emergency operations center, activated early Monday

The city of St. Petersburg is taking what Mayor Rick Kriseman calls unprecedented steps to contain the spread of Covid-19 coronavirus.

Acting under the authority of an emergency ordinance approved by the City Council last week, the mayor outlined several mandates Monday afternoon, including a ban on all gatherings of more than 50 people in both public and private locations. Those events include festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events, parties, weddings and similar assemblies, and the ban is effective immediately.

“We will enforce this. We will disperse crowds. We ask that you don’t force us to do this and waste precious resources,” he said.

Starting Tuesday at noon, the city is reducing the occupancy for all restaurants, cafes, bars, movie theaters, gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys and the Cross Bay Ferry by 50 percent. A new last call for alcohol in St. Pete will be 9 p.m. until further notice.

“Should enforcement prove an issue, or circumstances necessitate it, I will move swiftly and order a complete closure. Late night revelry in this city will simply not be allowed. Business owners who violate this will be cited. Your liquor license at risk if you defy this directive,” Kriseman said, adding the directive is until further notice.

He also encouraged people to use common sense when visiting waterfront parks, Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, Sunken Gardens and golf courses. “While we are not closing these places, please create and maintain space. Do this for your health and the health of others,” Kriseman said.

Libraries, recreation centers, the Enoch Davis Center and the Sunshine Center are closed to the public until further notice. Outdoor playgrounds and exercise zones will receive considerable attention from city teams to ensure cleanliness.

City Council meetings are canceled until April 9, pending further review. Other public meetings, such as boards and committees, are canceled until further notice.

Kriseman also said the city would amend its telecommuting policy to allow more city residents to work from home, and he encouraged other businesses in the city to do the same for their workforces. He also asked residents to take advantage of the city’s online platforms such as stpete.org/action and the SeeClickFix platform. The city is not currently shutting off delinquent water accounts in order to ensure proper hygiene, but said water payments should continue, and it is preferred that accounts be paid online or via telephone.

“Our only hope to minimize the potentially devastating impacts of this illness on our health, way of life and economy is to accept the current state of disruption and coordinate in a way that works to truly contain it through social distancing,” Kriseman said. “This is a time to act as a community in the best interest of every person who calls it home, and the most vulnerable among us will be our biggest beneficiary.”

Click here for the city’s webpage with additional coronavirus updates.

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