St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman urged residents Thursday to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in response to Gov. Ron DeSantis lifting all local emergency orders.
“The Governor’s actions, while I believe to be foolish and short sighted and legally tenuous, are clear,” Kriseman said. “While the declared local state of emergency may be over, COVID-19 is not over. It is still very much with us, and until more people are vaccinated, it is likely to be with us for quite a while.”
The Mayor expressed outrage Monday after DeSantis’ announcement that he would use his executive power to terminate local emergency orders through June.
After June, the termination is made possible by a new law that takes effect July 1 as part of an emergency management bill (SB 2006) passed on the last day of the Session.
In lieu of the local mask mandate, social distancing requirements and dining out rules, which are all void under the Governor’s order, Kriseman pleaded with residents to get a vaccine to prevent further spread of the virus.
“Each one of you need to get vaccinated — if you get vaccinated, not only are you protecting yourself, you’re protecting your family, you’re protecting your friends, you’re protecting the community,” Kriseman said. “With no social distancing, with no mask mandate, the best way you protect yourself, aside from you following those protocols, is to get vaccinated. I cannot stress that enough.”
Among those 16 and up, 431,583 individuals have received a vaccine in the county, and 330,327 individuals are fully vaccinated, according to county health data. Children 12-15 are expected to be approved for Pfizer vaccines as early as next week. Based on U.S. Census data as of mid-2019, 44% of all Pinellas County residents have received at least one vaccine and 34% are fully vaccinated.
The goal, Kriseman said, is to reach herd immunity. However, the threshold to reach herd immunity against COVID-19 is currently not known, according to the World Health Organization.
While such immunity requires a substantial portion of the population to be vaccinated against the illness, it can vary between diseases. For example, herd immunity against measles requires 95% of the population to be vaccinated, while for polio, it is only 80%, according to the WHO.
“The quicker we can get everybody vaccinated, and we can get closer to that herd immunity, the quicker these things completely go away,” Kriseman said. “My big fear is with no mandates and no requirements, if we don’t see vaccination rates go up, I’m afraid we’re gonna see a big spike again in our numbers, greater hospitalizations, and more people dying.”
Pinellas County has continued to see a swift decline in COIVD-19 numbers the past few weeks, moving from a positivity rate of 4.38% on April 21 to a rate of 2.91% on Tuesday, according to the latest available data. It’s also moved from reporting about 150 new cases a day two weeks ago to less than 100 the past few days.