ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman struck an optimistic tone on Tuesday during his weekly update via Facebook Live.
“This virus, while a real and present danger that has killed many of our fellow neighbors, has not overwhelmed our community," he said in a recorded 10-minute appearance at Sunken Gardens, which recently reopened.
St. Petersburg has 381 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, but Kriseman said hospital capacities in and surrounding the city remain "of no concern, even as elective procedures have begun.”
The mayor, standing in front of Beaker, a macaw who danced in the background, attributed the city’s relative success with the virus to the health of its residents and social distancing. He donned a mask designed by local artist Jennifer Kosharek, saying masks can be an extension of one’s personality, “or even an illustration of your pride in St. Pete.” He encouraged folks to post photos of their creative mask designs to social media, and urged restaurants to make masks mandatory for employees.
Kriseman also announced that the city has received about $1.6 million of federal grants through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, plus some additional state funding, to help low and moderate income families.
More than $600,000 will be split between Catholic Charities and Boley Centers to provide up to three months of rent and utility assistance to families who make up to 50 percent of the area’s median income and have fallen behind on their payments because of the pandemic.
And nearly $600,000 will be available to help families that make up to 80 percent of the area’s median income with up to three months of mortgage and utility payments.
In all, city officials hope to touch about 300 families through the monthly expenses programs.
Another $380,000 will be available to help social services organizations that have seen demand for their services increase due to the pandemic. Those organizations will have to apply for the funds.
“We want you to get the assistance that you need,” Kriseman said.
The mayor said so far, he’s comfortable with the speed at which the state and Gov. Ron DeSantis have been reopening businesses.
“But it’s during the second phase that we have good data and that we’ve had ample time to collect that data of the impact of beginning to open businesses in phase one," he said.
The mayor also weighed in on a controversy at the Department of Health, where a manager who was maintaining the state’s COVID-19 data was asked to resign after she objected to the removal of information.
“All of us, in every city and every county around the state of Florida, we rely upon the information that we’re receiving from the Department of Health and from Tallahassee," Kriseman said, "so I hope that these allegations do not prove to be true.”
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