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Libraries open, in-person events scheduled as St. Pete enters its next phase of reopenings

Jaymi Butler

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Restart St. Pete

People are still wearing masks and practicing social distancing – somewhat – but things are slowly returning to normal in St. Pete. 

As of Monday, recreation centers reopened their gyms and fitness centers and began accepting requests for park permits and facility room rentals. Public-facing city offices resumed regular operating hours. And bibliophiles rejoiced – libraries are open once again for the first time since March, albeit with restrictions. Browsers and computer users can only stay for 45 minutes at a time at most locations, and programming such as children’s story hours are still on hold. 

The city also began issuing permits for both indoor and outdoor events and there are already a number of events on the city’s Facebook calendar, including the Second Saturday ArtWalk Oct. 10 across several downtown districts, the St. Pete Street Food and Craft Beer Fest on Oct. 16 at Albert Whitted Park and the Fourth Annual Come OUT St. Petersburg festival on Oct. 17 in the Grand Central District. 

The most eagerly anticipated event, however, is the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which is scheduled for Oct. 22 to 25 and will mark the final race for the 2020 NTT IndyCar season. Last week, organizers told the St. Pete city council that they’ll allow about 20,000 fans to attend the race in person. They’ll be required to wear facial coverings and will be given health screenings upon entry, and the paddock and pit lanes will be closed to spectators to promote social distancing. Previously purchased tickets which were not already deferred will be valid for gate entry on the corresponding days of the postponed event, and a limited number of tickets will go on sale in the next few days, according to a statement from race organizers. 

Despite the reopenings and return to in-person events, St. Pete mayor Rick Kriseman has continued to express the need for residents to do their part to limit the spread of the virus. Organizers of third-party, co-sponsored and private events will be required to comply with CDC and local health authority guidelines or risk a municipal ordinance violation.

“The face covering requirement adopted by Pinellas County remains in place,” he said last week. “Any business in St. Pete has the right to refuse entry or service to someone not wearing a mask the same way they would if someone was not wearing a shirt or shoes.”

Kriseman also engaged in a little Twitter fun with New York governor Andrew Cuomo regarding the upcoming ALDS series between the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees. In July, Cuomo sent 7,500 tests to St. Pete, along with a team to provide support a testing site in South St. Pete.

“First sentence is spot-on,” Kriseman wrote in a subsequent tweet. 

The state has now recorded more than 717,800 cases of Covid-19, along with 14,712 deaths. Pinellas County now has 22,548 positive cases and 766 deaths, with a rolling two week average positivity rate of around 3 percent.

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