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Despite COVID-19 records, no mandatory vaccinations, state of emergency for St. Pete

Pinellas has 5,125 new cases this week while the positivity rate is at 18 percent, “the highest that we’ve seen yet,” says St. Petersburg Fire Rescue.
A Pfizer vaccine is prepared during a community outreach event and vaccination drive hosted by Not My Son and Today's Church in July. COVID-19 cases continue to surge in Florida and in Pinellas County, but the City of St. Petersburg has decided against mandating vaccinations for its employees and declaring a state of emergency.
A Pfizer vaccine is prepared during a community outreach event and vaccination drive hosted by Not My Son and Today's Church in July. COVID-19 cases continue to surge in Florida and in Pinellas County, but the City of St. Petersburg has decided against mandating vaccinations for its employees and declaring a state of emergency. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]
Published Aug. 12
Updated Aug. 13

ST. PETERSBURG — COVID-19 cases continue to surge in Florida and in Pinellas County, but the City of St. Petersburg has decided against mandating vaccinations for its employees and declaring a state of emergency.

City officials previously considered those measures after last week’s startling COVID-19 update, the first in two weeks. City Council was again briefed on the state of the virus at Thursday’s council meeting.

Amber Boulding, the fire emergency management manager at St. Petersburg Fire Rescue, told the council that Florida now has experienced 2.7 million cases and about 39,000 deaths. In the past week, the state has seen 134,000 cases and 175 deaths.

“We’re still seeing record numbers, really, each day,” she said. “Each week we’re setting that record bar higher and higher.”

Pinellas County has experienced 94,815 cases, including 5,125 cases this week.

Percent positivity for the week is now at 18 percent, “the highest that we’ve seen yet,” she said.

Boulding she said there are currently 15 COVID patients at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, though one of those cases is under investigation.

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Vaccinations, she said, are up 10,000 shots each week.

The local health department is providing a $20 food voucher for all residents who are vaccinated. City Hall will distribute vaccinations on Aug. 22, along with a one month parking pass to any downtown garage for the first 500 participants.

Deputy mayor Kanika Tomalin said there was “no need to revisit reinstating a state of emergency.” She said the city is internally pushing for employees to get vaccinated. Masks are mandatory for all city employees inside city facilities.

Tomalin floated the idea of hosting public speakers in a downstairs room and outside of council chambers, but several council members said that move was unnecessary.

In Tampa, Mayor Jane Castor announced Wednesday that city employees are required to show proof of vaccination to go mask-free.

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