County Dashboard Offers Up-to-Date COVID Data
Escambia County officials went online [Friday], tackling subjects ranging from COVID-19 concerns within county agencies, to mask usage, to a new method to crunch the coronavirus numbers.
County Administrator Janice Gilley hosted the virtual news conference—her first meeting with the media since April. She was asked why the county isn’t making face coverings mandatory for its workforce.
“We’ve asked county employees when they can’t physically distance from others to make sure that they protect themselves,” Gilley said. “No, we’ve not mandated it but most of our employees do have offices in which they can work; which means they are segregated from the other employees. Those who ride in vehicles together, we are making sure that they wear a face mask if they are in a closed, confined space.”
The county, says Gilley, is working to follow CDC criteria about avoiding close spaces; or protecting oneself in them.
“We have had numerous employees share with us that it is very difficult to wear a mask, and there are physical reasons why people have difficulty wearing masks,” said Gilley. “We are doing our best to make sure that we are being very respectful of each other’s distance and space; so that’s why it hasn’t been mandated.”
At least two county commissioners were among those online, including Jeff Bergosh, who represents District-1. He weighed in on the mask issue, siding with Gilley that there’s no need to mandate them – instead, taking what he calls the prudent – and not the knee-jerk – choice.
“We educate and inform everyone and we provide masks for those who want [them] and those who are at great risk have the ability to make choices to limit their exposure,” Bergosh said. “While at the same time everyone else can go about our lives while practicing the CDC guidelines. And I think the city [of Pensacola] made a – [pause] – well, I’m just going to leave it there.”
The Pensacola City Council, at the urging of Mayor Grover Robinson, passed an emergency ordinance earlier this month requiring face coverings in buildings inside the city limits. Fines for non-compliance begin at $50.
Escambia Countians now have a “one-stop shop” for coronavirus data generated within the county. Public Safety Director Eric Gilmore rolled out a new interactive dashboard, which gives real-time numbers 24/7.
“You can tab through each one, so as you can see the Escambia residents’ total cases – and then the non-residents broke out as well,” said Eric Gilmore, the county’s public safety director. "We have our cumulative residential data, and you can scroll over and see that charted as far as non-residential, as well as the monthly.”
On the cases per day tab -- as of Friday -- the count ran from June 26 to July 6 – averaging just over 100 cases per day during that period – along with a treasure trove of information.
“And as we scroll through we can see the median age; you can get your demographics information by scrolling through this section,” Gilmore said. “Cases by age, cases by gender, by race, case by ethnicity. So there’s a lot more information in that category that you can glean from that.”
One of the questions that have popped up is -- where is the county getting its numbers on total COVID hospitalizations at area hospitals. Gilmore said from the hospitals themselves – Ascension Sacred Heart, West Florida, and Baptist.
“We’re showing 137 [patients Friday] in our hospital system; [Thursday], it was 142; that’s a real-time number,” said Gilmore. “Now, understanding, in the next 30 minutes, somebody could be discharged from a hospital or somebody could be [admitted]. So that number can fluctuate throughout the day.”
Also listed on the dashboard is the number of tests for COVID-19 per week. In the past week or so, Gilmore says the 6 testing sites in the county have conducted about 6,500 tests.
“Sacred Heart, Community Health, Departments of Health, Baptist – they’ve been increasing their testing capacity,” said Gilmore. “UWF was only doing 250 a day, and now they’ve gone to over 750 a day; so they’re really banging it out. And not only that, last week we had a new state-sponsored testing site pop up in front of Publix on 9th Avenue. So we have 7 testing locations that you can go get tested at.”
The COVID-19 dashboard can be found at www.myescambia.com.