Virtual inauguration after new Florida mayor gets COVID

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FILE - Ken Welch speaks to supporters Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021 in St. Petersburg, Fla. A ball planned for Welch, the first Black mayor of St. Petersburg has been canceled, Thursday, Dec. 2, amid concerns its circus theme was inappropriate in the once-segregated city. (Martha Asencio-Rhine/Tampa Bay Times via AP, File)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — The incoming mayor of a major Florida city will take office in a virtual inauguration ceremony after testing positive for COVID-19 on Monday, officials said.

Ken Welch was scheduled to be sworn in Thursday on the steps of City Hall as St. Petersburg’s first Black mayor, but that ceremony has been canceled to follow quarantine guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to a news release.

Welch, 57, was vaccinated early last year and received a booster in November, officials said. He first tested positive for COVID-19 Monday morning using a home kit. A PCR test later in the day was also positive.

“Let this serve as a reminder to all of us to get vaccinated and follow CDC guidelines to minimize the spread of COVID-19,” Welch said in a statement. “While this is disappointing, I am incredibly thankful that my current symptoms are not serious, and I keep in my thoughts and prayers all the families who have lost so much more to this pandemic."

Welch said he will work from home until he is cleared from isolation. He expects to begin working from City Hall next Monday.

Welch is replacing Mayor Rick Kriseman, who is leaving office because of term limits.

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