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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: 'Put on a Mask' to Fight Covid-19

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Florida is reporting nearly 3,500 new cases of the coronavirus, a dip from the record-breaking numbers of recent days. However, there are no changes on the horizon when it comes to Pensacola’s reopening schedule.

Despite the drop, Florida reached a major milestone on Monday as the state surpassed 100,000 COVID-19 cases, according to the state Department of Health. Saturday's new case count set the record for the most in a single day since the pandemic began -- just over 4,000 -- in a state that has seen numerous record-breaking spikes since reopening restaurants, bars, gyms and other public places. About 1,200 of them are in Escambia County, which also saw a mixed bag on testing.

“The latest update shows a 4.8 percent positive [test] rate for June 20th; that follows 9.1 percent for 19th and 3.6 percent June 18th,” said Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson. “The number of hospitalizations was 24 as of June 21st; that is the highest number we have had since the middle of April.”

COVID cases number 350 in Santa Rosa and 421 in Okaloosa County. The statewide death toll stands at almost 3,200 as of Monday.

“Our biggest issue is not trying to stop the virus altogether; it’s to keep the virus from overwhelming our health care system,” Robinson said. “We’ve always talked about how to lengthen out the span of it. If we can do that, we’re going to be successful.”

During his weekly virtual news conference, Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson said there’s a need to get back to the habits acquired when the pandemic began to spread, in order to keep businesses open, and promote other reopenings.

“When we were in March, we very clearly understood the whole idea was flattening the curve,” said the mayor. “Then we kind of got to April and May and it was like, ‘We’re seeing the numbers go down, so we could stop it altogether.’ I think stopping it altogether is an unrealistic expectation.”

After speaking to health care officials in the Pensacola area, Robinson said they believe the number of coronavirus cases are well within their ability to handle.

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Credit City of Pensacola
Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson speaks during his virtual news conference, June 22, 2020

“If people can just get tested; stay away from the amount of time they get well, [then] come back at that point,” said Robinson. “That’s more successful than us shutting everything down again. But we’ve just got to remember, the same lessons that got us there – don’t shake hands, wear your mask, wash your hands all the time – if we back to these simple things, we can keep it checked.”

The rising number of new cases is said to be prompting some businesses to reevaluate their decisions to reopen. Health officials are also reissuing advisories urging social distancing. Robinson repeats the state DOH in urging everyone to put on a mask when they cannot distance properly.

“Many of us were very good about wearing masks when we first opened up in May, then sort of gotten out of that habit,” the mayor said. “I had a chance to go to a couple of places over the weekend and see many individuals without masks. We really need to get back to wearing masks when we go to the grocery store, and you go to other places.”

Among the exceptions are those with health issues that would be exacerbated by a face covering and children age two and younger. But the mayor stops short of requiring them inside the city limits.

“The question is how do we really deal with that, and I don’t know if we’re at this point looking at doing something like fines, or something else,” said Robinson. “But we clearly believe that everyone should be wearing a mask; that would help all of us. The Florida Department of Health is asking all Floridians to do that. Certainly in the city of Pensacola we’ve been doing that and we’re going to continue to ask people to do that.”

Meantime, some infectious disease experts are warning that the coronavirus is on track to keep spreading "like a forest fire" through the U.S. this summer and fall.