ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — St. Petersburg Mayor-elect Ken Welch says despite testing positive for COVID-19 days before his inauguration, "It's time to get to work."
Welch says he is fully vaccinated and received his booster in November and credits the vaccine for him only having mild symptoms — "feels like a regular cold," he said.
The mayor-elect has previously tested positive for COVID-19 back in September when he was fully vaccinated and says his symptoms were similar. When asked if getting COVID has changed how he views the virus, he replied that it reinforced his belief in the science of vaccines.
"Let this serve as a reminder to all of us to get vaccinated and follow CDC guidelines to minimize the spread of COVID-19," Welch said Monday in a statement. "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."
Because of his diagnosis, Thursday's planned in-person swearing-in ceremony has now gone virtual. The inauguration will be live-streamed and you'll be able to watch the historic event on 10 Tampa Bay.
Even before testing positive for COVID, in light of rising cases in Florida fueled by the highly-contagious omicron variant, community events celebrating the inauguration were postponed.
Welch will "conduct city business remotely while in isolation" for the next five days in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
As to whether his COVID experience could lead to adjustments in city policy, Welch said, "I don't plan to make any immediate changes until we get into office and actually have a discussion with our team.
"I actually was on a call that [outgoing] Mayor Kriseman invited us to with his emergency management team yesterday, and that's really what led to me getting tested and coming back with that positive test result, but we'll follow the science, you know, if it makes sense for us to adjust our posture on the mask requirements and will do so."
Welch added that whatever policies his administration puts in a place he wants them to be workable, enforceable and within the bounds of the law set by Tallahassee.
You can watch the full news conference here:
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