Mayor Robinson: 'COVID Is Not Going Away'
Florida is taking the lead in the number of new COVID-19 cases nationwide – dealing mostly with the Delta variant – and the Florida Panhandle is no exception.
“Compared to the virus that we had circulating initially in the United States at the start of the pandemic; the Delta variant is more aggressive and much more transmissible that previously circulating strains,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky who urges the unvaccinated to take the Delta variant seriously.
“This virus has no incentive to let up, and it remains in search of the next vulnerable person to infect,” Walensky said. “Please consider getting vaccinated and take precautions until you do. And if you’ve already had COVID infection, CDC guidance strongly recommends that you get vaccinated.”
During his weekly news conference on Monday, Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson had the numbers from the state Health Department, from the week of July 16 to July 22.
“Escambia County had a positivity rate of 19.9% which is [a] fairly significant increase, obviously,” said the mayor. “We have seen significant impact in cases, in positivity, and other things we saw before [but it] hasn’t quite translated so much into hospitalizations, and certainly fatalities, at this point. And we’re hoping that’s going to be the case.”
The mayor believes that’s in part because of the vaccines, and they’re continuing to push for residents to get their shots. Doses of the vaccine will be available at Pensacola City Hall, and Robinson is encouraging everyone else to follow suit.
“I was with a couple of employers this weekend — large employers— and we were just discussing how do we deal with this, trying to take care of the health of your employees,” said Robinson. “My understanding is Baptist [Hospital] had tracked their hospitalization going back to March. But at least for the month of July they found that 90 percent of those hospitalized were unvaccinated.”
Robinson points to what he believes is a substantial amount of evidence, showing that Moderna, Pfizer and the Johnson & Johnson vaccines are helping people avoid hospitalization and death.
“From that standpoint, we need to be vigilant and continue to keep working; it’s not going away,” said the mayor. “Our whole goal is that we hope COVID becomes a cold, rather than a sort of pneumonia or something that’s going to kill you. And I think we can do that [and] vaccines are an important part of that.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is joining a growing number of conservatives who have flip-flopped, and are now urging followers to get their shots.
“If you are vaccinated — fully vaccinated — the chance of you getting seriously ill or dying from COVID is effectively zero,” said DeSantis in St. Petersburg last week.
The governor made the call as the Delta variant is hitting Florida exceptionally hard. According to the state Department of Health, COVID-19 cases statewide rose from 46,000 to 73,000 as of Thursday of last week – averaging roughly 6,500 new cases per week.
“If you look at the people that are being admitted to hospitals, over 95 percent of them are either not fully vaccinate or not vaccinated at all,” DeSantis said. “These vaccines are saving lives; they are reducing mortality.”
Epidemiologists blame declining vaccination rates; a decline in mask wearing and social distancing requirements, and more people moving indoors from the hot weather. But there are two avenues that the governor is dead set against resurrecting.
“If anyone is calling for lockdowns, you’re not getting that done in Florida,” the governor declared. “I’m gonna protect peoples’ livelihoods; I’m gonna protect kids’ right to go to school, I’m gonna protect peoples’ right to run their small businesses.”
“I think it’s a horrible message; this is a time that we need responsible leadership at the top. And the fact that you would have a ‘head in the sand’ approach if you will, and talk about wearing masks again,” said Cong. Charlie Crist, who’s seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, appearing on CNN. He’s also calling for a federal investigation into how DeSantis is selecting locations to give out the vaccines.
“Unfortunately, the story of Florida’s vaccine distribution has not been one of fairness; we need to discuss what has become the leading the Civil Rights issue of our time,” Crist said last week. “Equal, equitable access to this vaccine is demanded.”
Back home, Mayor Grover Robinson took part in a conference call Monday with officials from Pensacola’s three major hospitals, West Florida, Baptist, and Ascension-Sacred Heart, to discuss where to go from here.