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St. Petersburg’s tennis courts and dog parks to close for social distancing

Mayor Rick Kriseman also said he’ll close pickle ball courts and skate parks.

ST. PETERSBURG — Tennis courts and dog parks will close in the city later this week.

So will pickle ball courts and skate parks.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman made the announcement Tuesday afternoon on Facebook Live during what has become his weekly update on the coronavirus crisis within the city.

“There is evidence that our efforts at social distancing are working here,” Kriseman said. “But until the curve is flattened and we’re on the other side of the peak, this is no time to let off the gas. There’s more we can do, and based off some behaviors of late, we feel there is more we need to do to stay ahead of the virus.”

Related: Are Tampa and St. Petersburg keeping their distance?

He also announced there will be a second phase of the city’s Fighting Chance Fund, which provides $5,000 grants to small businesses that have been affected by the coronavirus shutdown and $500 to their employees. The second phase will have broader eligibility requirements, opening up the grants to more businesses and individuals.

Related: St. Petersburg offers cash to businesses and workers affected by coronavirus shutdown

City officials previously said a second round of grants would be primarily driven by philanthropy, seeded by a $100,000 donation from the Vinik Family Foundation. On Tuesday, the city’s policy chief, Kevin King, clarified that the second round will draw from the same $6.8 million the city got from the federal government in Hurricane Irma reimbursements that powers the first round “until demand is greater than resources,” at which point donations could be used.

The city also loosened the requirements for employees of eligible businesses to receive grant money.

Employees of eligible businesses will receive the grant, even if they don’t live within the city. The first round only awarded $500 grants to employees of eligible businesses who were city residents.

Related: St. Pete business grants in response to coronavirus shutdown don’t include everyone

“So what does it all mean?" Kriseman asked rhetorically. "It means that more help is on the way.”

Second-round applications will be available April 30.

Already, he said, about 1,800 businesses and individuals have applied to the first round of funding and the city has awarded about $77,000 in grants. Some businesses received grants within 48 hours of applying, a feat for which Kriseman patted himself on the back.

Tennis and pickle courts are seen at Fossil Park Tuesday in St. Petersburg. [DIRK SHADD | Times]

“I am incredibly proud of the city team behind this effort," he said, "and it is really an illustration of not just good government, but efficient government, which seems to be a rarity these days.”

The mayor also offered his reaction to some policy changes happening in municipalities around the Tampa Bay area. He said he is not considering a curfew in St. Petersburg. Hillsborough leaders on Monday agreed to implement a county-wide curfew that lasts from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. each night.

Related: Hillsborough’s curfew starts Monday night. But can you jog or walk the dog?

Kriseman also said he is not going to require folks to wear masks outside their homes around the city, an issue Hillsborough leaders plan to take up during an emergency policy meeting on Thursday.

The mayor also offered tacit disapproval of a Pinellas County proposal to reopen beaches for some activities. He said it’s important to first get past the peak of the disease and flatten the curve before “we start looking at doing things on a piecemeal basis.”

Related: Pinellas commission will consider opening parts of beaches for exercise

“I think it’s important to have a phased plan for how we’re going to bring life back to normal,” he said.

St. Petersburg officials also said the city this month sent $100,000 to the Pinellas Opportunity Council, which is accepting applications from residents who need assistance with their rent or mortgage payments or their utility bills. The city is applying for additional federal stimulus funds to expand those assistance programs.

Tampa on Tuesday unveiled its own relief fund aimed at small businesses and individuals, including providing money for rent and mortgage payments. The city hopes to raise $8 million for its fund.

Related: Tampa Mayor Jane Castor unveils emergency relief fund

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