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Pensacola Mask Ordinance Could Be Quarantined

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City of Pensacola
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When the Pensacola City Council meets this week, the city’s mask ordinance to battle the coronavirus could become history – for now.

The decision to look into rescinding the order, says Mayor Grover Robinson, is the dropping COVID-19 hospitalization rate.

“Last week, we were at 75 [patients]; we’ve gone 75, then 70, 63-64, 59, and [Sunday] was 50,” said the mayor. “The last time we were this low we were at 44, when we first instituted it. We haven’t been this low since the council passed their mask ordinance.”

Along with asking it to lift the mask mandate, Robinson is also expected to ask the council to continue the state of emergency now in effect for the pandemic.

“Much of that comes down to the same point of what we see with hurricanes,” said the mayor. “I think at some point, we have to have numbers that we’re shooting for, and we’re definitively at. There’s no doubt that the masks work in practice. And the practice at City Hall and all city facilities will still be to wear masks."

Passed in June, the ordinance mandated facial coverings in businesses inside the Pensacola city limits. Businesses outside the limits followed suit, although there was never a mandatory mask law for the rest of Escambia County. But with hospitalizations declining, the mayor believes that telling people to wear them now, is counterproductive.

“Because when we need you to do it, we want to be able to bring that tool back out and do it again and get people to do that,” Robinson said.

Case in point, says Robinson, is dealing with hurricane season.

“We don’t tell you from May to November that you have to do everything for hurricanes; in fact, we tell you it’s hurricane season, but when we issue and come on and tell you as a warning, that’s when we expect you to act,” the mayor said. “I think sometimes when you wear on people with a continued act, they sometimes get less response in following it.”

With the number of COVID patients now at or below 50 in the three regional hospitals – Baptist, Ascension-Sacred Heart and West Florida – the council will be asked for suspension of the mask law.

But...

“If we see numbers come back up to a point, we’re going to immediately jump on that,” said Robinson. “But even without being a mandate – let me be very clear – the practice of wearing a mask is still going to be important and is still going to be required in city buildings. And if they go up, we’re going to create the mandate again, and we expect people to follow it.”

Another goal of de-masking Pensacola, says the mayor, is showing that when certain numbers are reached, there is flexibility in the process and the ability to work through that.