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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 On Pandemic: 'We Need To Stay On Top Of This'

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Jennie McKeon/WUWF Public Media
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As the weather turns cooler, the COVID-19 pandemic is spiking in Northwest Florida – as elsewhere – with experts saying it will get worse before it gets better. Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson and Gov. Ron DeSantis had local and state updates.

Almost 17,000 COVID-19 cases are reported in Escambia County, according to the Florida Department of Health, with an 8.86% positivity rate as of Monday, according to the mayor.

“Hospitalizations have gone above 100 over the weekend; we were at 109 after 106, 99 and 98 the last couple of days,” said Robinson. “Still, while we’ve seen an increase it has not been as rapid of an increase as we’ve seen before. But it certainly indicates that we need to stay on top of this.”

A business shutdown similar to last spring and summer can be avoided, says Robinson, if everyone takes the proper procedures with masking, distancing and hand-washing.

“Our numbers – while they have increased – it has been a very moderate increase,” the mayor said. “So we continue to work with the hospitals; obviously we will be discussing it at length where we go with [the] vaccine. We’re very excited about the potentials of seeing that coming forward.”

Pensacola’s mask ordinance, along with others in cities across Florida, were rendered virtually toothless by Gov. Ron DeSantis, who ordered cancelled all sanctions. But the mayor says they’re continuing to work with local businesses.

“He’s taken some of the enforcement out against individuals; we still have the ability to enforce with businesses, and we’ve been doing that,” said Robinson. “One of the things that the governor’s been very clear about is asking to try to make sure everything we do to keep businesses open, and we’ve done that in the city of Pensacola. We want to continue to do that.”

On the other hand, Robinson would also like to see more local control, based on local pandemic conditions.

“Perhaps one of the things to ask for within that is reaching out to the governor,” said the mayor. “It would be totally consistent for the governor to have some expectation that we will communicate if conditions get to a certain point. I think we can do that and get some confidence. Hopefully we can broker something that would work.”

In his first news conference since Nov. 4, the day after Election Day, Gov. RonDeSantis announced Monday in Kissimmee that his administration is “doubling down” on its commitment to public schools, students and parents.

“Schools will remain open for in-person instruction, but we will continue to offer parents choices for the spring semester, said the governor. “And every parent in Florida can take that to the bank.”

School closures around the country, claims the governor, is the “biggest public health blunder in modern American history."

“And the tragedy of all this is that the evidence has been remarkably clear since the spring, that closing schools offers virtually nothing in terms of virus mitigation,” said DeSantis. “But it poses huge costs on our kids, on our parents, and on our society.”

“Even these national epidemiologists and logical experts – back 120 days ago – [said], ‘It’s too soon to open schools, it will cause community spread,’” said Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. “Now they’re saying, ‘Open the schools, [and] close everything else.’”

Corcoran joined DeSantis for the announcement, speaking about why it's important to have kids back in brick-and-mortar schools.

“When you’re dealing with children’s lives, and you’re dealing with human beings being who they are and you’re dealing with dignity,” Corcoran said. “You should not just emotionally — willy-nilly without scientific evidence – put them in harm’s way.”

How European nations are handling the pandemic, in areas where schools remain open to in-person instruction, is being cited by the governor as what the U.S. model should be.

“Places like Sweden, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland; all had positive experiences by keeping kids in school,” said DeSantis. “The Prime Minister of Norway said closing schools in the spring was a mistake, and that it may have actually increased the viral spread.”

Since schools in Florida and around the U.S. opened for in-house instruction, the governor claims — without offering any data to back it up — the nation’s coronavirus experience has tracked with the European results.

“Some like France chose to shut down businesses; others like Switzerland didn’t do that, [but] no one was taking about closing schools,” said the governor. “People who advocate closing schools for virus mitigation are effectively today’s ‘Flat Earthers.’ They have no scientific support for their position.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ order also keeps protections to funding in the 67 school districts, but with one new wrinkle. Schools will be required to notify parents if their child is doing poorly using the online learning, and those kids will be required to attend school in person unless the parents opt out.