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Pinellas beaches expected to stay open for July 4

Margie Manning

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Photo credit: Visit St. Pete/Clearwater

Pinellas County likely will keep its beaches open this July 4 weekend, said County Administrator Barry Burton.

Beaches in three south Florida counties will close this weekend in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. During a Monday morning interview on CNN, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman suggested Pinellas County consider a similar step.

“It’s a policy I think they’ve got to consider as we come up to July 4 weekend,” Kriseman said.

Kriseman said he would be talking with Burton later Monday about policies the county is considering, but Burton tells the St. Pete Catalyst he does not anticipate Pinellas County closing beaches.

“It would cause unintended consequences as people pack hotel pools and hotels, so spreading out on a beach helps with social distancing,” Burton said in an email to the Catalyst.

The Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners is scheduled to meet Tuesday, June 30 to consider extending the local state of emergency through July 10.

On CNN, Kriseman also criticized Gov. Ron DeSantis for failing to take statewide action, as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to grow around Florida.

“This should be statewide policy but we don’t have the leadership from the administration, from the governor’s office. So you’re seeing local governments that are doing it themselves and having to take on the leadership,” Kriseman said.

He added that DeSantis has been “inaccessible” to many mayors.

Both the city of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County already have mandatory face covering policies for indoor public places, and Kriseman said that also should be a statewide policy

“The fact that it’s not makes no sense,” Kriseman said. “If we’re going to get a handle on this, we have to be acting collectively, not piecemeal where individual local governments are putting policies in place.”

DeSantis has said previously Florida communities are widely different from each other, and that local governments can make the best decision about their own local restrictions.

DeSantis also has said the increase in confirmed cases is due in part to an increase in testing and a backlog of test reports.

“I think that explanation is quite frankly silly,” Kriseman said. “When we look at the percentage of positive tests. We’ve had days where there are 1,500 tests done and other days when there are 3,500 tests done. But what really matters is, what are the percentages of those tests done that come back positive?”

In late April and early May, the two-week rolling average of the percentage of total tests that were positive for COVID-19 was about 1.5 percent to 2 percent. Over the last two weeks, that two-week rolling average was about 10 percent, Kriseman said.

“That is very disconcerting. The explanation isn’t the number of tests. It’s that more people are exposed right now,” Kriseman said.

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