COVID-19 Industry Update

Feb. 26, 2021

It never gets old!

For those who missed it, St. Pete Beach was named the No. 1 Beach in Tripadvisor’s annual Travelers’ Choice Awards. Tuesday’s news gave St. Pete/Clearwater its fourth No. 1 nod in the past 6 years, re-affirming our often-used line “America’s Best Beaches.”

And as we remind locals, visitors, media and customers, this is a distinction based on traveler reviews, not Tripadvisor itself. As lucky as we are to call St. Pete/Clearwater home and to promote this destination around the world, it’s reassuring to see others recognize how spoiled we are.

And it’s not just about the No. 1 beach, but No. 9 (Madeira Beach), No. 16 (Treasure Island) and No. 18 (Clearwater Beach). St. Pete/Clearwater was the only Florida destination represented in the Top 10. And no other destination in the world was represented by that many beaches.

On Tuesday morning, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater (VSPC) celebrated the news in both St. Pete Beach and Madeira Beach with Pinellas County Commissioner Charlie Justice, VSPC President/CEO Steve Hayes, St. Pete Beach Mayor Al Johnson, Madeira Beach Mayor John B. Hendricks and Tourist Development Council members Doreen Moore, Melinda Pletcher and Tony Satterfield. Here are images from both announcements.

To further help St. Pete Beach and Madeira Beach celebrate, VSPC has created a badge for each community to add to email signatures, websites, social media and beyond. Download the St. Pete Beach one here and Madeira Beach one here.

As VSPC does with a No. 1 Tripadvisor beach, it will be integrating the accolade into marketing materials throughout 2021, especially as beach destinations continue to be highly desired amidst the pandemic.

Congratulations to our beach communities who deserve all the credit in maintaining our beautiful beaches! Cheers!

Below are other pertinent updates.


Pinellas residents 65 and older can sign up to be contacted for available COVID-19 vaccine appointments by creating an account at Friends and family are encouraged to help those without internet access or other technology barriers sign up for appointments, which are scheduled at public sites located throughout the county. Signing up online is the best way to pre-register, but residents can also create an account by calling 844-770-8548.

As vaccine supply is available, seniors who are pre-registered in the portal will be contacted by text message or email to schedule appointments for first and second doses. Those who do not have a mobile number or email address should ask a friend or family member to sign up on their behalf with their contact information; if this is not possible, leave whatever contact information you have and you will contacted. Appointment invites are sent based on the order of sign-ups in the portal; with more than 100,000 people over 65 already pre-registered, it may take weeks or even months before new or recent sign-ups are contacted depending on the amount of available vaccine supply from the State of Florida.

Local pharmacies, including Publix, Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club are also offering vaccines to Pinellas seniors. Each pharmacy chain is offering their own appointment system. Check pharmacy websites for availability.

About 20,000 people a week are receiving first and second doses in Pinellas through sign-ups on the patient portal at sites operated by the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County and Pinellas Fire Paramedic crews. Residents are reminded to show up at their appointment on time, but not early, as arriving ahead of schedule can slow down the vaccine process.

To date, more than 127,000 people have received a first or second dose of the vaccine in Pinellas County, and the county is leading the state for vaccinating the most vulnerable residents at long-term care facilities.

In addition to the public sites and pharmacies, the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas is hosting targeted vaccine events in underserved communities to ensure greater health equity across the county. For detailed information about the latest vaccine availability in Pinellas, visit https://


The Emergency Rental Assistance Program, a part of the federal stimulus package passed in late December, makes available $25 billion to assist households that are unable to pay rent and utilities due to the pandemic. Pinellas County received $21.4 million to implement this program to support renter populations earning less than 80% of the Area Media Income (AMI), with households earning less than 50% of AMI given priority assistance. Go here to determine eligibility. Webinars for landlords and property managers will be on March 12, FAQs can be found here and people can sign up for text message alerts for the program by texting pinellasrent to 888777.


Through a one-year sponsorship with USA Softball, the National Governing Body of Softball in the United States, VSPC and the City of Clearwater are set to host the U.S. Women’s National Team for a training camp March 3-18 at the Eddie C. Moore Softball Complex. The effort supports USA Softball and the National Team Program as they continue preparations for the highly anticipated Tokyo Olympic Games. Additionally, USA Softball has rescheduled the USA vs. Mexico three-game series for March 8-10 at the Eddie C. Moore Complex. The partnership includes co-branded media and marketing materials in addition to hosting USA Softball National Teams in the future.


Earlier this week, Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, set forth a four-step pathway to emerge from its COVID-19 lockdown by the end of June. Steps include: reopening schools on March 8; reopening nonessential retail (no earlier than April 12); removal of most social distancing guidelines (no sooner than May 17); and elimination of most social restrictions and reopening of nightclubs. The May 17 date also includes the resumption of international travel and even though that date could move, UK airlines and travel companies have reported a surge in bookings.


According to new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, hotel workers across the U.S. should have earlier access to COVID-19 vaccines. In the recently updated vaccine distribution guidance, “Travel Accommodation” was prioritized in the essential workers category---elevating hotel workers to Phase 1c.


Starting Wednesday for two weeks, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is prioritizing businesses with fewer than 20 employees. The Small Business Administration (SBA) isn’t reviewing or accepting applications from any other businesses during that time, but after the 14 days all qualified businesses can resume applying. The program is set to expire at the end of March and about half of the funds allocated are still available. Complete U.S. Travel resources can be found here.

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