ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman is pleading with the public to continue masking up and socially distancing after a new executive order from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis blocked local mandates to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Thursday, Kriseman called DeSantis’s recent override of city and county mask mandates “foolish.” The mayor thinks more people will get sick and potentially die because of the virus which could overwhelm local hospitals again, but some medical professionals disagree.
“What I’m doing today is really an appeal to the community. While we can’t require you to [mask up indoors] we’re asking you to do the right thing,” Kriseman said. “My big fear is if we don’t see vaccination rates go up we’re going to see a spike in numbers, more hospitalizations, and more people dying.”
Kriseman pleaded with the community to get vaccinated, continue masking up, and try to spread out while indoors.
The Chief of Infectious Diseases at Moffitt Cancer Center, Dr. John Greene, thinks it’s time for people to choose for themselves and agrees with the governor.
“Will it overwhelm the hospitals? Absolutely not, will not do it, guaranteed. There’s no way it could happen in my opinion. Will there be a spike or a blip-up? Yes there could be, but how high will that spike go, I don’t know,” Dr. Greene said. “I do not believe the hospitals will get overwhelmed…80 percent of the elderly are vaccinated, 30-40 percent of the population is vaccinated.”
Dr. Greene overall disagrees with Kriseman about the current state of the pandemic and says he knows it’s controversial.
“At what point do you not mandate things and have personal freedom? No one will agree on this topic. If you ask my colleagues, 90 percent of them will disagree with me,” Dr. Greene said.
8 On Your Side spoke with some in Pinellas County who agree with the mayor, like Claudia Cifuentes.
“I totally agree [with the mayor], you need to stop the entry of the virus and the only way is using the correct mask,” Cifuentes said.
Others, like Tom Hurter, disagree with the mayor.
“I support Gov. Desantis and his removal of the mask mandate. I think it should be left up to the public to govern themselves,” Hurter said.
Kriseman’s main message to residents is ‘do the right thing’.
“We’ve only got 44 percent of Pinellas County vaccinated, the CDC has said herd immunity is 70 percent, we’re a long way from that point!” said Mayor Kriseman.