As Covid-19 numbers continue to rise, St. Petersburg mayor Rick Kriseman said the city is working on a new communication campaign to remind residents of the importance of social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing. If people don’t heed the message, more stringent controls might have to be put in place.
“Some cities have had to go back to the lockdown we started with,” Kriseman said in an interview with the Catalyst Monday. “Try to remember back to springtime and early summer. Do you really want to go back there?”
There are two main causes for the spike in cases, Kriseman said. First, more people are gathering in large numbers at events and private parties where masks aren’t being worn and social distancing isn’t being practiced. Second, some businesses, particularly bars and restaurants, aren’t enforcing the rules for their patrons. Under current regulations, people should not be consuming food or drinks while standing up and tables are supposed to be placed six feet apart. That isn’t always the case – and the city is watching.
“We’ve been citing businesses for violating the rules,” Kriseman said, adding that businesses that incur three or more citations – of which there are several – could face additional penalties including the loss of their extended hours permit to serve alcohol. “They seem to forget that if we don’t get this under control, things could get a lot worse for them and they could be completely shut down again.”
Kriseman said he gets lots of phone calls from businesses who are following regulations and are concerned that those who aren’t are ruining it for everyone else, which he calls “a shame.” He shared the city is currently exploring ways to recognize the many businesses that are doing the right thing.
While Kriseman has said repeatedly he doesn’t want to see another shutdown, he recognizes that there needs to be a plan for what should happen if the numbers surge out of control. He intends to have a conversation with County Administrator Barry Burton about what additional restrictions could look like, when they should be triggered and whether the city and county will impose the same rules.
“We could do one in the city that’s more stringent than the county and the county’s orders wouldn’t preempt ours, but it would be much better if we can work together,” he said.
This issue is especially timely as residents prepare for Thanksgiving. Tom Iovino, public information officer for the Pinellas County Health Department, said residents should follow CDC guidelines in terms of how they will celebrate this year. That could mean a small dinner with your household while FaceTiming with your extended family, dropping food off to loved ones who may be vulnerable to the virus, or dining al fresco.
Plan a safe Thanksgiving this year so you’re around for Thanksgiving next year. If you can celebrate outdoors, I urge you to do so. If you are indoors, limit the # of attendees. Wear masks. Let’s give thanks for science and follow it.
More guidance here: https://t.co/1wkB1xh6YW
— Rick Kriseman (@Kriseman) November 16, 2020
“We’re fortunate here in Florida that we can go and eat outside,” he said.
As always, the county will monitor the positivity rate closely and keep an eye on the numbers two weeks after Thanksgiving.
“Hopefully if people take the necessary precautions, the rates will stay the same or go down,” he said. “It’s all reliant on how people mask up and maintain social distance.”
This weekend, Florida had the biggest leap in cases since July, with more than 10,000 cases reported. Locally, Pinellas County tallied another 281 cases of Covid-19 Monday. One more death was also recorded overnight, bringing the county’s total to 855 since the start of the pandemic. As of Monday, the county now has 29,297 positive cases and a rolling two-week positivity rate of 6.6 percent. Five percent is the number that some public health officials say should be a threshold for potential restrictions, although state and federal reopening guidelines cite a 10 percent threshold for imposing restrictions. The St. Pete Catalyst has a daily update on total cases by ZIP code, which you can find here.