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St. Petersburg cautiously reopens as COVID-19 positivity rate remains below 5 percent

If it climbs higher, city officials aren't afraid to put restrictions back in place for safety.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — After more than two weeks of staying below a 5-percent COVID-19 positivity rate, St. Petersburg on Monday reopened several of its city offices and facilities.

“I’m very glad to see we are opening up,” Ann Puffer said.

For months, Puffer, like so many others, has had to do without something she loves: a trip to the city’s library. On Monday, she was back.

“It’s still nice to come and browse and find something that’s a surprise,” she said.

St. Petersburg’s libraries, recreation centers and most city offices are re-opening with some minor limitations. Libraries, for example, are capping browsing and computer time at 45 minutes. Curbside services are still available.

The city’s recreation centers are open, including gyms and room rentals, but they are not resuming classes just yet.

“Anytime you take a step toward opening a little more there’s always a bit of nerves that come with that,” St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said.

Kriseman says with a two-week positivity rate under 5 percent the time was right. Still, he urges people not to become complacent.

Those holding events need to show they have a plan that includes masks and other steps that follow CDC guidelines.

“We are hoping that our community doesn’t get too comfortable into lax,” Kriseman said. “It’s not that time to take our foot off the pedal and start posting again. We still have to be vigilant in what we’re doing.”

The city’s municipal golf courses have been and remain open. The city is also once again accepting requests and applications from people and organizations that want to schedule events on city-owned property.

Just because the city turned the switch back on, it doesn’t mean it can’t be dialed back if St. Petersburg's rolling two-week average reaches 5 percent or higher again, officials warn.

“We want to be open, but we want to be smart. So, we are taking it slow and trying to take it smart and do it the right way so that we don’t have to backtrack,” Kriseman said.

The first big tests for the city’s reopening plan are just days away.

Their first food truck rally since the shutdown will take place Oct. 16. And while this year’s Come Out St. Pete event won’t have a parade, they are planning a street festival on Oct. 17.

“Just getting out and coming to the beautiful places in Saint Pete,” Puffer said. “I’m glad to see we are opening up.”

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