‘Ready to embrace the race’: St. Pete mayor says Grand Prix still a go despite coronavirus concerns

Pinellas County

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman held a news conference Wednesday morning to address coronavirus concerns ahead of the Firestone Grand Prix this weekend.

“We are ready to embrace the race here in St.Petersburg,” Kriseman said.

However, 8 On Your Side’s Christine McLarty spoke with some residents who aren’t ready to embrace the crowds and the germs that come with them.

The press conference comes less than a day after health officials announced two confirmed cases of coronavirus in Pinellas County.

“This morning I was advised these two cases have self-isolated,” said Kriseman. “That their contact with others has been minimal. That our county remains at low risk and that there has been no community spread.”

*VIEW MAYOR KRISEMAN’S FULL PRESS CONFERENCE IN THE VIDEO PLAYER BELOW*

Over 160,000 fans are expected to pour into St. Pete for this weekend’s 3-day event.

Kriseman said personal hygiene is key. City officials are working closely with the Florida Dept. of Health and CDC on a multi-layered emergency plan.

“Making sure we have tight communication plans and risk communication on how we’re going to talk to people,” said St. Petersburg Fire Rescue Emergency Operations spokesperson Amber Boulding. “We have to decide when and at what point in time to communicate.”

Racecar drivers are taking precautions too.

“Just keeping our hands to ourselves is the most important thing,” said driver Oliver Askew. “Not sharing sharpies for autographs or getting to close when taking pictures.”

The 13 races for the Firestone St.Petersburg Grand Prix start Friday and end Sunday.

Kriseman urged those who are sick to stay home and those who attend to take sanitary precautions like washing hands.

Race organizers told 8 On Your Side they are actively monitoring the situation hourly. They do not expect any disruptions to race weekend but are asking everyone to wash their hands regularly.

The event organizers are adding additional hand sanitizer and handwashing stations throughout the event site, along with increasing cleaning and disinfecting of highly touched areas.

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