Covid-19 numbers for St. Petersburg continue to show a downward trend, indicating mitigation measures such as social distancing and mask wearing are working. However, city officials cautioned against complacency.
“Everyone wants to get back to that new normal, but we need to stay the course,” Kyla Breland, Pinellas County emergency management specialist, told the St. Pete City Council Thursday.
According to data presented, the number of new cases appears to be stabilizing and the percent of people testing positive has averaged 6.86 percent over the past two weeks. The city is targeting efforts to bring the numbers down in hard-hit ZIP codes in South St. Pete, Breland said.
In terms of testing, the Mahaffey drive-through site has performed 12,386 tests so far, with an 11.8 percent positivity rate. The site, which performs tests regardless of symptoms, is now separating testing lines based on whether someone has symptoms or not to help examine the data further. Antibody testing will also be performed at Mahaffey, and those test results will be provided on-site within 30 minutes. Anyone who tests positive for antibodies will also be able to get a Covid test during their visit.
The test site at Pinellas Community Church, which was done as a partnership between the city of St. Pete and the state of New York, concluded Wednesday. The site saw increased traffic daily and analysis of results is currently being conducted.
Council members also continued to discuss issues surrounding what meeting in person will look like when it happens. Gov. Ron DeSantis is allowing local governments to continue holding virtual meetings through August, and council chair Ed Monanari said the city will revisit the topic at its Aug. 27 meeting. Current plans call for the Sept. 3 budget hearing to be held virtually.
Safety measures discussed by the council include the installation of plexiglass partitions between council members, better filtration systems in City Hall, offering opportunities for virtual public comment, limiting the number of in-person presentations where possible and mask wearing during meetings.
“I will wear a mask the entire time,” said council member Brandi Gabbard, who called for a pact that members will agree to wear masks for the duration of council meetings, which sometimes last more than 10 hours. “I’m willing to make that commitment, not to protect me but to protect you.”