TAMPA, Fla. — Five mayors in Florida held a statewide virtual press conference on Wednesday afternoon to urge Governor Ron DeSantis to change the state's approach to COVID-19.
St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman was the only Tampa Bay area mayor among the five participating. The others were Mayor Dan Gelber, City of Miami Beach; Mayor Michael J. Ryan, City of Sunrise; Mayor Crystal Wagar, Miami Shores Village; Mayor Carlos Hernandez, City of Hialeah.
The city leaders addressed the rise in cases and made recommendations for DeSantis to consider.
"All we’re asking for as mayors is the support of an administration in Tallahassee that’s looking out for the residents of the state of Florida as much as we are for the residents of our community," Kriseman said.
The mayors said they wanted a statewide mask mandate, testing at full capacity, better contact tracing, including using an app, and the ability for local governments to enact their own measures, noting they wanted to avoid a shut down.
"We understand the economic impact that potentially some of these orders could have but we’re also trying to look at this from a long term basis as opposed to short term and if we don’t deal with this now the economic catastrophe will be far worse if we have to go to a complete shut down," said Kriseman.
Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber sent a letter to DeSantis, writing that Florida's approach is "failing horribly."
"We won’t need to return to lock-downs if we are allowed to manage the virus through implementation of these best practice," he wrote.
Kriseman said on Tuesday that if cases continue to climb in St. Pete, the city could be forced to put strict new rules in place.
Although Kriseman says it’s too early to say what the new rules will be or how and when they will be implemented, he is planning to meet with Pinellas County Administrator Barry Burton to discuss any changes as cases climb across Florida.
“The last thing we want to do here in St. Petersburg is to shut things down again. We’re seeing it happen around the county. We’re going to do everything we can to prevent that including enhanced rules if we need to,” Kriseman said.
The most recent weekly White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing says Florida is in the red zone for cases.
The briefing for governors, dated Nov. 15, said the state is in a viral resurgence “…and with aggressive action now, can contain this surge.”
ABC Action News reached out to the governor's office for comment but has not yet heard back. Wednesday, the governor was expected to have phone calls with the CEO's of Tampa General Hospital and Advent Health.
DeSantis also shared on social media he met with HHS Secretary Alex Azar to discuss a potential vaccine.
"As we draw near to the release of a COVID-19 vaccine, I met w/ @SecAzar to discuss strategy & next steps for its distribution in Florida once available. We also discussed the availability of the new monoclonal antibody treatment & the promising prospects of this new therapeutic," the governor tweeted.