ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman on Monday listed the four metrics he’s watching to guide a restart of the city’s economy, which has been shuttered for more than a month in response to the coronavirus.
The first metric he’s watching is the percentage of tests that are positive. He wants to see that remain flat or decline for a period of 14 days. “If our efforts of reducing the spread are successful, the percentage should not increase," Kriseman said.
The second metric he’s watching is hospital capacity, which should not be overwhelmed, even as elective surgeries come back on line. The third metric is whether everyone who needs a COVID-19 test can get one. And the fourth metric is St. Petersburg’s ability to contact trace — to figure out who an infected person previously had contact with. Right now that responsibility rests solely with the Florida Department of Health at the county level.
Kriseman listed his key indicators on a Zoom video conference call with his 17 “Restart St. Pete” advisers, which include three doctors and a hospital executive, two city officials, the head of the local public transportation agency, a school board member, people who represent the business and arts worlds and the publisher of a St. Petersburg-focused website.
The mayor acknowledged that orders from the state or the county could preempt St. Petersburg partially or entirely from implementing its own restart plan. The state’s closure of nonessential businesses is set to expire April 30, unless Gov. Ron DeSantis extends it. St. Petersburg is also under a less-restrictive countywide business closure, which is extended week to week.
Stopping short of calling the metrics benchmarks that must be hit before a restart could begin, city policy chief Kevin King said the four criteria “are a foundation for ongoing decisions.”
“Continued progress on all four in order to gradually reopen commerce and movement in the city,” he said through a text message after the Zoom call ended. “A spike in increase of percentage of positive cases, for example, could alter our plans. Or if testing doesn’t continue to ramp up or if the county is unable to adequately contact trace.”
The 45-minute meeting was an introduction to the group, which was assembled last week. The mayor said he will be discussing the reopening of the city with each of them individually over the coming days and weeks.
The meeting started with a welcome from the mayor, and then an update on the current situation in St. Petersburg from the city’s emergency manager Amber Boulding.
Advisers asked her about testing, including how long it may take for test results from Monday’s test site at the Childs Park Recreation Center and the test site at the Frank Pierce Recreation Center in Bartlett Park on May 2. She said they are conservatively estimating seven to 14 days.
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Duggan Cooley, the executive director of the Pinellas Community Foundation, asked about antibody testing. Boulding called those tests an “historical snapshot" rather than a live view of the virus, and said Pinellas County was working to get antibody tests for all first-responders.
Kriseman concluded the meeting by telling the advisers he wants to hear their points of view and from their constituents, and for them to be brutally honest with him.
“The truth is, none of us are experts in reopening a city after a pandemic," he said. “This is a unique and challenging time, but if anyone is up for it, it’s us here in St. Pete.”
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