ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — As COVID-19 numbers continue to climb statewide, one local mayor has a strong warning. Mayor Rick Kriseman in St. Petersburg says if COVID-19 cases don’t go down, the city could be forced to put strict new rules in place.
Although Kriseman says it’s too early to say what the new rules will be or how and when they will be implemented, he is planning to meet with Pinellas County Administrator Barry Burton to discuss any changes as cases climb across Florida.
At Red Mesa Cantina, owner Peter Veytia III is choosing to put people over profit. His restaurant is still operating at 50% capacity, despite the state allowing businesses to fully reopen.
“We’re staying at those levels because we feel that is what’s safest for our staff and for our guests,” Veytia elaborated.
A few blocks away on Central Avenue, Karen Porterfield is limiting the number of customers allowed at one time inside her store, despite needing every last sale.
“It’s just getting a little bit scary again out there and we really want to see everybody be able to keep their doors open and keep the customers coming in through the holidays,” she explained.
Black Crow Coffee shares a similar sentiment. The coffee shop has a strict mask policy and enforces social distancing while customers are waiting to order.
“I like working at a place that’s been very active in the community trying to be a safe haven,” explained employee Chance Reynolds.
St. Petersburg leaders say most businesses, like Plain Jane, Black Crow and Red Mesa are doing everything they can to stay open, but more than 120 other businesses have been cited since June for breaking mask rules.
With COVID-19 numbers once again climbing, the city is getting ready to launch yet another public information campaign reenforcing the rules. They plan to stress social distancing, mask usage and hand washing.
“The last thing we want to do here in St. Petersburg is to shut things down again. We’re seeing it happen around the county. We’re going to do everything we can to prevent that including enhanced rules if we need to,” Kriseman added.
Mayor Kriseman also stressed the need for safe behavior in the upcoming holiday season, which he says could be key to keeping the numbers at bay. Kriseman is encouraging small family gatherings, outdoor meals or virtual meet-ups.
This past weekend, Florida saw the biggest leap in COVID-19 cases since July, but business leaders worry they might not be able to survive a second shutdown.
“There’s just a lot of uncertainty and it’s definitely stressful on the business owners,” Reynolds said.
“It all comes down to balancing safety with generating revenue to pay the bills. It’s a very fine line,” Veytia added.