ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - As coronavirus cases climb in St. Pete and across the Bay Area, mayor Rick Kriseman plans to announce new measures to protect his city against the spread.
In a tweet on Tuesday, the St. Pete mayor said he’d been consulting with county leaders about the “next steps” related to the rise of COVID-19 in Pinellas County.
“It is clear the State of Florida is business as usual. I will be taking steps to protect our city," the social media post read.
Kriseman did not elaborate on what those steps might be. He plans to make his announcement live on his Facebook page at 3 p.m. Wednesday.
The announcement comes after several downtown St. Pete restaurants announced temporary closures due to confirmed coronavirus cases among staff members. On Wednesday, the Noble Crust location in St. Pete learned one of its staff members tested positive for the coronavirus, and will temporarily close.
Parks and Rec, the Galley and Avenue Eat and Drink, Pelican Pub, The Landing and Detroit Liquors have all announced temporary closures after employees tested positive for COVID-19.
Others, including Copa, Hawkers, and Trophy Fish, have said they’ll preemptively close as a precaution so they can take a few days to deep clean and allow employees to get tested before opening back up to diners.
Under current state guidelines, businesses don’t have to close, or even disclose when an employee tests positive.
On Sunday, Kriseman commended the businesses that have warned the public about positive cases and taken precautions to protect the public.
“All restaurant [sic], bars in St. Pete that have had an employee test positive should follow the lead of these places. Shut down, allow for contact tracing, test all employees, and reopen when safe. Residents must also do what is necessary to keep St. Pete safe.”
In Tampa, Hyde Park’s Meat Market announced at least one employee had tested positive. The restaurant decided to remain open, but said it would increase sanitization measures and conduct contact tracing.
Restaurants that opt to disclose information about a positive test run the risk of becoming criticized and even stigmatized. Restaurants who’ve announced cases or closures have received a mix of reactions on social media pages, with some thanking the businesses for their transparency and others blaming them for spreading the virus. Local leaders say it’s important for businesses to be open with their customers.
“We strongly encourage any establishment that has a test positive to immediately disclose this information to both staff and customers, require that all employees be tested before returning to work, and take appropriate steps to sanitize the facility,” said Ashley Bauman, Communications Director for the City of Tampa. “We commend businesses that have done the right thing in light of difficult circumstances.”
Public officials in both Pinellas and Hillsborough counties say data from the last two weeks of testing shows an alarming rise of coronavirus cases among young people. The number of positive cases among those 34 and under make up half of all new cases.
If you feel sick:
The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Email responses will be sent during call center hours.
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