Several beaches across Florida are closed for the Fourth of July weekend due to coronavirus concerns. However, that’s not the case yet for residents of St. Petersburg who have access to beaches within driving distance in their county.
Mayor Rick Kriseman says he thinks that it’s a policy that the county has to consider.
“I think it's a policy [the county officials] have got to consider as we come up to July 4 weekend. We know it's always a busy time at our beaches that weekend.”
Kriseman also criticized Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for not implementing statewide policies at this time to combat the surge in cases, and instead, leaving it up to the local governments to take action on a number of issues such as beach closures and wearing masks.
“This should be a statewide policy, but we don't have the leadership right now from the administration and the governor's office,” he said. “If we're going to get a handle on this, we need to be acting collectively, not just piece-meal, where individual local governments are putting policies in place.”
In further criticism, Kriseman said that DeSantis has been “very inaccessible” to mayors across Florida, which is an impediment to statewide action against the virus.
“That's one of the frustrations that myself and other mayors around the state have had. The governor has been very inaccessible to all of us, so we haven't had those conversations. I've certainly been very vocal about the fact that I think it works best when it's statewide policy and if we can't have that then countywide policy and if we can't have that then individual cities,” he said. “But it really should come down from the state.”
Kriseman also dismissed DeSantis’ claims that the surge in cases is partially due to a backlog in tests.
“That explanation is really quite frankly silly. What we look at is the percentage of positive tests. So we've had days where maybe we'll have 1,500 tests that are done. Other days where we'll have 3,500 tests that are done, but what really matters is what are those percentages of those tests that are being done that are coming back positive,” he explained.
St. Petersburg, Florida, was seeing a percentage of 1.5% to 2% positive cases on a two-week rolling basis in late April and early May. In the last two weeks, the rolling average has risen to 10%, he said.
“That is very disconcerting, and the explanation isn't the number of tests. It's that more people are exposed right now.”