St. Petersburg to name advisors on reopening city

Mayor Rick Kriseman said the group will include medical professionals and business leaders.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman dons a Florida Gators themed protective mask during an event on Tuesday morning.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman dons a Florida Gators themed protective mask during an event on Tuesday morning. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]
Published Apr. 21, 2020|Updated Apr. 21, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman is putting together an advisory group to explore when, and how, to reopen the city.

He made it clear, however, that the city will do so on its own timeline.

“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," Kriseman said during his weekly Facebook Live update on the city’s response to the coronavirus. "I intend to do that while consulting with some of St. Pete’s best and brightest.”

The group will include Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, who Kriseman pointed out is a former executive at Bayfront Health, plus “representatives from our medical community and our business community, including, and especially, our small business community, among others.”

City officials declined to release the names of anyone serving on the group, saying it was still being formed.

Related: Governor’s task force to reopen Florida will make recommendations this week

St. Petersburg is under the restrictions imposed by county-wide and state-wide “safer-at-home” orders, which has closed all non-essential businesses. The mayor also declared a state of emergency within the city itself but has declined to issue his own shutdown orders.

The county-wide order must be re-approved every week by the Pinellas County Commission, while Gov. Ron DeSantis’ order is to expire April 30, unless the governor extends it. The governor formed a Re-Open Florida Task Force — comprised mostly of business leaders — who are supposed to come up with recommendations for reopening the state by Friday.

Kriseman said it’s too early to tell if he will lift the city’s emergency declaration if and when county and state officials lift theirs. He said he’s been in contact with Pinellas County Administrator Barry Burton, and the pair agree they need to see more data, plus what restrictions the governor lifts "before making any kind of decisions for what St. Petersburg is going to do going forward.”

The mayor added: “St. Pete will restart. And when it happens, and what that looks like, is yet to be known. But we are, in fact, getting closer.”

Kriseman also provided the latest figures on the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, in the county and city. The number of Pinellas cases passed 600 on Tuesday, and more than 166 of those are within the city. Limited testing, however, means there are likely more than that.

He said at least one model shows Florida over the hump of the curve.

“Passing the peak is important, because it’s during the peak that we expect our hospitals to have the heaviest load," he said. "And to date, we have not overwhelmed our hospitals.”

Yet he called out residents who he said have had barbecues and house parties that fly in the face of the social distancing orders in place.

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“We really need some residents to do even better," he said.

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