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Kriseman Preaches Safety For Rays Watch Parties, Grand Prix

Mayor Rick Kriseman stands up in front of a red sculpture at the St. Pete Pier to hold a Facebook Live press conference.
City of St. Petersburg Facebook livestream
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman announced Tuesday that safety measures will be in place for this week's Tampa Bay Rays World Series watch parties, as well as this weekend's Grand Prix.

The City of St. Petersburg is starting to allow large scale events — like Tampa Bay Rays World Series watch parties and the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg — to happen as long as coronavirus safety plans are in place.

Tampa Bay Rays fans will be gathering starting Tuesday night at Spa Beach Park in St. Petersburg to watch the team play in the World Series for just the second time in their history.

But they'll be doing so under coronavirus-related restrictions.

“We encourage everyone to soak in the moment,” said St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman. “Because sports really is an escape. We saw what the Lightning did for this community. And now the Rays are doing it for us."

The Rays are playing against the Los Angeles Dodgers for the 2020 World Series championship, but Tropicana Field, the home of the Rays, will not be used. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the entire series will be played in Arlington, Texas.

COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the state and country, but Kriseman announced a month ago he'd allow events like this to take place as long as the two-week average of percent positivity for the coronavirus in the city remained under 5%.

Each event must also have a safety plan in place.

Measures at the watch party events include setting up about 400 8 foot by 8 foot pods for up to six people to sit together in small groups, spaced out around the park. The games will be aired on a large screen.

Kriseman said as of Tuesday, more than 24,000 people have tested positive for the virus in Pinellas County. The median age of infection is 43, and 803 people have died. 6.1% tested positive in the overnight county data. The rolling two-week average is about 4.5%, and hospital bed availability remains stable.

St. Pete reopening plans can be found here.

Pinellas County currently has the third lowest rolling positivity rate in the state. But Kriseman warns residents and visitors not to let their guard down.

“Now this is going to be a busy week, downtown and throughout the city. So we need everyone to be responsible. We really need everyone to recognize what is at stake here as these cases rise,” Kriseman said.

“And while the governor of Florida said he will not shut things down again, that doesn't mean it can't or won't happen here in St. Pete. If there are restrictions that will save hundreds or thousands of lives in my city, we will enact them, because that's my job.”

The county mask ordinance remains in effect. Businesses can still be cited for not having customers wearing masks inside. Kriseman said the city cited more than a dozen businesses just this week.

Restaurants must continue to space tables six feet apart, and in parties no larger than ten. Patrons must be seated at all times while eating or drinking.

“The goal is for our businesses and our economy to stay open, and to coexist with the virus, until the virus can be treated successfully, or until a vaccine is introduced," said Kriseman. "I really don't think there is a mayor anywhere in America who doesn't want that, but instead wants to hurt their economy.”

Kriseman said he wanted the pier district to be a gathering place for family, friends and visitors every day of the week — but especially for large events, which have been limited by the coronavirus.

“This is about as big as it gets for us to be able to have a World Series involving the Rays and to be able to host it here at the Pier. Yeah, we're thrilled to be able to do it and you know, the beauty is because of the size of that park, we're really able to create the social distancing necessary in this time of COVID to make sure people can enjoy the watch party and do it safely," he said.

The city is also allowing the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg this weekend with restrictions, including limiting the number of attendees and requiring masks.

“It's an outdoor event that covers more than 50 acres, attendance will be limited to only 20,000, which is a fraction of what the race usually draws on race days,” Kriseman said. “There is ample room for fans to spread out along our waterfront and enjoy the race.”

Masks will be required, even outdoors, including while seated in the stands. Hand-washing stations will also be available throughout the race area.