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How coronavirus concerns will impact Grand Prix, Triathlon

Margie Manning

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The 2019 Firestone Grand Prix drew thousands of spectators. (Photo credit: City of St. Petersburg Flickr)

Two St. Petersburg events that draw big crowds and competitors from around the world are slated to go on – at least at this point in time – despite concerns about coronavirus.

The Firestone Grand Prix is on track to take place March 13-March 15, as is the St. Anthony’s Triathlon, April 24-26.

Florida has been under a public health emergency since earlier this week.

Firestone Grand Prix organizers did not return several calls and emails asking for information about contingency plans, but “right now  as far as we’re concerned the race is moving forward,” Mayor Rick Kriseman told the St. Pete Catalyst Wednesday morning.

“What you are seeing around the U.S. right now is sporting events have not been cancelled. Spring training games are still going on. XFL games are still going on. As we sit here today the race is still going on and we want to encourage people to come out and have a great time,” Kriseman said.

He’s urging people to take recommended precautions, including frequent hand-washing, and to look at the Florida Department of Health website for updated information.

“They’re the subject matter experts. That’s where I’m turning to … They are going to have the most current and up-to-date information,” Kriseman said.

The city is coordinating with federal, state and local officials on dealing with coronavirus. “We’re doing everything we can to be prepared,” Kriseman said.

BayCare Health System and all its hospitals, including St. Anthony’s Hospital, are closely monitoring the situation with coronavirus and are in close contact with government authorities, said Joni James, communications director for the system.

“In all our endeavors, including the St. Anthony’s Triathlon, we are continuously reviewing options to best safeguard our patients, team members and the community. At this time, with the triathlon still several weeks away, we have not adjusted any plans for the race,” James said.

Visit St. Pete Clearwater also is closely monitoring the situation, and is in contact with local health officials, Visit Florida and U.S. Travel, said Leroy Bridges, a spokesman for the agency.

“All of our visitor data continues to show growth currently and for the near future. Obviously, if the situation changes, travel could be affected, but we haven’t seen or heard anything to indicate that will happen,” Bridge said.

Nearly 90 percent of U.S. travelers have yet to cancel plans due to coronavirus concerns, travel research website Skift reported Monday.

But foreign travel to the United States, especially from Asian countries, will drop over the next six months, according to U.S. Travel Association’s Travel Trends Index, which cited coronavirus fears and restrictions, as well as other factors including cooling domestic and global momentum, prolonged trade tensions and policy uncertainty.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Maya Feliciano

    March 11, 2020at12:55 pm

    This event should be cancelled at this time. Pinellas County presently has two positive cases of COVID-19 as of this morning, more to follow I’m sure. The World Health Organization just declared Coronavirus is now a global pandemic, and this event is an international event with close human proximity between athletes, volunteers, vendors, and spectators. How can you keep this event open? It’s shocking and irresponsible!

  2. Avatar

    JOHN HARRIS

    March 12, 2020at2:01 pm

    Well, now the NBA, NHL, NYC half marathon, Boston have all been suspended or canceled. What is the update? I sincerely hope that you all put the needs of the athletes ahead of money in this case. People have travel plans, flights, hotels, booked and need to know sooner rather than later.

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