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00000177-b32b-d5f4-a5ff-bbfb6e660000Here is the information you need to know about COVID-19 in Northwest Florida. We will keep this post updated with the latest information from local, and statewide agencies. For inforamtion from Centers for Disease Control and prevention: cdc.gov/coronavirusFor updates on Florida cases of coronavirus, visit the FDOH dashboard.The COVID-19 call center is available at 24/7 at 1-866-779-6121

Mayor: Part of Palafox Could Be Closed for Pedestrians

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The partial re-opening of businesses began Monday in Florida, as the battle against COVID-19 continues. In his weekly virtual news conference, Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson gave a sneak peek at downtown Pensacola, post-coronavirus.

The idea, says the mayor, is to find a way to deal with an ever-changing dynamic in business, brought about by the coronavirus.

“We certainly understand that people may have changed their buying patterns, their restaurant patterns, their shopping patterns,” said Robinson. “However, we certainly want to find ways to continue. We have a very vibrant retail and restaurant economy, especially in downtown Pensacola, and we would love to find a way to improve these possibilities.”

Work is underway by Robinson and the city’s Downtown Improvement Board on a plan to close off a portion of Palafox Street and make it pedestrian-only.

“Our goal and idea was that both restaurants and retail could use the sidewalk, and then we have people walk in the street on either side. You walk the same direction up that you would be with cars, and that way you wouldn’t have to walk by other people eating at their tables.”

The current thinking by Robinson and the DIB is limiting the closings to weekends. Work on the logistics is continuing this week.

“We are looking at sort of a Friday-Saturday-Sunday launch of this,” said the mayor. “Where it would be Friday, 4-9 [p.m.], Saturday 4 to 9 and pick back up Sunday from 10 in the morning to 9 that night, at which time it would be removed and start the next week.”

As of Monday, Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered partial reopening of a number of retail businesses, including restaurants – whose outdoor seating must observe social distancing of at least 6-feet, and indoor dining is capped at 25% capacity.

“Floridians have lost jobs through no fault of their own, and many are fearful of what may come next,” said DeSantis. “Others have seen small businesses that represent life’s work devastated practically overnight. This current crisis has impacted in one way or another all 21-and-a-half million Floridians in life-changing ways.”

Robinson says the Pensacola Fire Department will assist businesses in complying with occupant capacity and other social distancing issues.

“Most restaurants have an occupancy load posted; approved occupancy is 50 persons or greater," said Robinson. “However, most retailers do not have an occupancy load posted; it may not know what that 25% is. This service is provided as a courtesy by the city of Pensacola to the business community.”

Elsewhere, this is National Tourism and Travel Week, and the mayor praises Visit Pensacola – the city’s tourism arm – for leading a virtual celebration of the week.

“Tourism is a vital part both to the state of Florida and city of Pensacola, and we know you’ve taken a hard hit from COVID-19,” said Robinson. “We encourage everyone to come together and show their support during these challenging times – even if you have to share your support virtually.”

While all departments within the city of Pensacola are open for business, Mayor Grover Robinson says at this point they are not bringing back in-house customer contact.

“We feel like anything we do that creates connections, creates risk,” the mayor said. And at this time we feel it is irresponsible for the government to take on additional risk when we have businesses, especially personal service businesses that are still closed. Our goal is to get them back to work, and we don’t feel like we should be doing anything to increase risk.”

As those businesses reopen and get back to work safely, Robinson says the city will then open up all services now in limbo, as it goes into Phase-2 of the comeback.