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Roundup: USF invests in Covid-19 research, economic side effects, Kriseman on city restart

Margie Manning

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Secure mobile contact tracing is among the research projects supported by USF.

Today’s roundup has news about University of South Florida, Tampa Bay Partnership and Mayor Rick Kriseman.

University of South Florida will invest nearly $340,000 in 14 research projects that are addressing the Covid-19 pandemic.

The initial funding is designed to quickly scale the projects over the next few months, while USF researchers seek longer-term federal support, a news release said. Funding from the Florida High Tech Corridor Council also will support some of the projects.

The interdisciplinary projects are focused on developing new technologies to help prevent the spread of the virus, launching efforts to protect public safety, and managing the emotional impacts of the virus, USF said.

“We are moving quickly with our brightest and most creative faculty and student researchers collaborating to find solutions to the complex challenges presented by current and future global health crises,” said Steve Currall, USF president.

A complete list of projects is here.

As the number of new Covid-19 cases in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area begins to slow down, the economic side effects of the disease are becoming more visible, according to the Tampa Bay Partnership.

The Partnership is publishing a series of reports showing how the region is standing up during the pandemic. The organization is working with researchers from the Center for Analytics and Creativity at the USF Muma College of Business to get real-time data from Google.

Some key findings from the Wednesday report include:

• Calls to 211, a free phone number set aside by the FCC to connect people in need with health, human and social service organizations in their community, increased by more than 24 percent in the past six weeks.

• Online searches for Covid-19 testing peaked in mid-March and began to decline, which may reflect the region’s flattened curve in terms of case levels, the Partnership said.

• Online searches for unemployment benefits continue to climb in Florida, and Tampa Bay ranks fifth in the state by search volume.

• Online searches for food banks in Florida indicate a growing level of food insecurity, with Tampa Bay ranked third in the state by search volume.

• Online searches for housing assistance in Tampa Bay spiked following state and local stay-at-home orders and the subsequent loss in jobs.

Sign up here to subscribe to the Tampa Bay Partnership’s Covid-19 reports.

St. Petersburg will restart its economy, but when that happens and what it looks like isn’t yet known, Mayor Rick Kriseman said in a Facebook Live briefing Tuesday.

Mayor Rick Kriseman

“We respect the role of the federal government, the state of Florida and our partnership with the county, but St. Pete will have its own decisions to make and I intend to do that while consulting with some of St. Pete’s best and brightest,” Kriseman said.

Kanika Tomalin, deputy mayor and city administrator, is a former hospital executive who will help guide the work, Kriseman said. He also plans to tap representatives from the business community and the medical community as well as small businesses.

Kriseman spoke as Pinellas County debated an extension of its local state of emergency (county commissioners decided to extend the order until May 1) and as working groups on a task force appointed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis were considering how to re-open business in the state. Kriseman was asked if the city would maintain its state of emergency, should the county and state lift their own orders.

“I’ve had conversations with our county administrator, and he and I have the same philosophy related to data. We want to see what the data looks like,” Kriseman said. “It’s going to be important to see what the state’s order looks like and what restrictions they lift, before making any kind of decisions related to what St. Petersburg is going to do going forward.”

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