St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman teased lifting restrictions on small social gatherings and public parks in the coming weeks on Wednesday as Pinellas County cases continue to decrease.
However, the Mayor is not ready to make any moves yet, waiting until after Pinellas County schools reopen.
“It’s really gonna be important for us to get a couple of weeks of school under our belt before we start having any serious discussions about any potential next steps,” Kriseman said. “What we’ve seen from other communities around the country that have reopened their schools, they’ve seen some spikes. We want to make sure that’s not something that happens here.”
Pinellas County schools open Monday. Kriseman criticized the state’s response to reopening schools. In early July, Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran issued an emergency order requiring school districts to give parents the option to send students to brick-and-mortar schools five days a week.
“The response of the state has been disappointing, a bit tone-deaf,” Kriseman said in regard to schools reopening. “Local government, whether it’s the city, or the county, or the school district, we seem to be left on our own.”
Kriseman also announced the opening of a coronavirus antibody testing site at Mahaffey Theater, starting at 2 p.m. Wednesday. The antibody test is performed by blood draw.
The testing will be available at Mahaffey Theater from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. The site will have about 200 tests available per day. A referral is not needed. Results take about one hour and those who get tested will be notified of their results by phone. If positive, the site will recommend plasma donation with Florida One Blood Services.
“Please hear me clearly on this — it’s not going to tell you if you have the infection currently,” Kriseman said. “Just whether you developed antibodies to fight COVID-19.”
The city is focusing efforts on its southernmost ZIP codes, which have been impacted the hardest by COVID-19. With help from New York, the city is setting up more testing sites in South Pinellas.
Pinellas County reported 18,852 positive COVID-19 cases as of Wednesday morning. Kriseman reported the two week rolling positivity rate at 4.5% — a feat for the Mayor, who set the goal of earning and retaining a positivity rate under 5%.
“I’m really proud of residents, I’m proud of our businesses,” Kriseman said. “Pinellas County has really been leading the way in the state of Florida and, quite frankly, the rest of the state should be taking a look at what we’re doing here in Pinellas County.”