ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The inauguration ceremony for St. Pete Mayor-elect Ken Welch on Thursday, Jan. 6 will be performed virtually after he tested positive for COVID-19.
Welch will be sworn-in virtually on Thursday from his home. He will also provide a short speech virtually.
“Let this serve as a reminder to all of us to get vaccinated and follow CDC guidelines to minimize the spread of COVID-19,” said Mayor-elect Ken Welch. “While this is disappointing, I am incredibly thankful that my current symptoms are not serious, and I keep in my thoughts and prayers all the families who have lost so much more to this pandemic. Though we will not be able to celebrate in person, let us keep front of mind the significance of the day – the day that we begin a journey together, as one community in one city, toward inclusive progress. We will have much more to celebrate together in the years to come.”
This is the second time Welch has contracted COVID-19. He also got sick with mild symptoms in September.
Welch is fully vaccinated and received his COVID-19 booster shot in November.
“At last check, we were up over 20% positivity rate. That’s one out of 5. So it is out there everywhere," Welch explained during a virtual press conference on Tuesday.
Welch will remain in isolation for at least five days, following current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.
Welch first tested positive Monday morning using an at-home test kit. A second, PCR test later in the day was also positive.
Welch will be elected as the first black mayor in St. Petersburg's 134-year history.
He says despite the ceremony moving to a virtual platform, it doesn't take away from its significance.
“I’m kind of a workaholic anyway and I’m just ready to get to work. There will be parties in the future but it's time to get to work,” Welch elaborated.
Welch's inauguration is emotional for longtime St. Pete natives like Watson Haynes. Haynes always considered Ken Welch’s dad, David Welch, to be the unofficial first black mayor of St. Pete.
"His dad set the standard by acting as mayor for those of us who needed a black mayor. Now, knowing that Ken Welch is going to step in to be mayor, we’re just looking for the city to keep moving forward and he’s going to do it because he knows the history and has been part of the history of this city," Haynes said.
Welch has told ABC Action News he has challenging work ahead of him as mayor dealing with economic, social, and environmental issues in St. Petersburg.
There are several things he says he'll be focusing on as mayor. Those include:
- Controlling gun violence
- Rebuilding again infrastructure
- Redeveloping Tropicana Field
- The lack of affordable housing
People in the community say Welch's promise to focus on inclusive progress and making sure that as St. Pete grows, residents and businesses can afford to stay in the city and thrive, is top of mind.
"What we’re really hoping to do with the incoming Administration and all residents of goodwill. Whether they’re renters or landlords or what have you, is to put our hearts and minds together and have a conversation about how we secure that right to housing for all of our people," said Aaron Dietrich, from People's Council of St. Petersburg.
Welch will be announcing several senior staff members who will join his administration on January 6.
Five new city council members will be sworn in on the steps of City Hall at 10:30 a.m.
Welch will be sworn in at 12 p.m. virtually.