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COVID-19 monitoring to end in Escambia County and Pensacola

COVID dashboard
WUWF Public Media
A screen capture of Escambia County's dashboard during the summer.

As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to decline in Escambia County, so is the close monitoring of such cases.

“We continue to see a positivity rate that is that is at 4.9%, — we’re under 5% which is good,” Robinson said. “Hospitalizations were, as of Friday, 42.”

Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson, during his weekly newser on Monday. Fifty hospitalizations has always been the over-under when it comes to adjusting COVID policy.

Officials at West Florida, Baptist and Ascension Sacred Heart hospitals have told the mayor that with the decrease, they want to shift resources now being used to track cases, to other areas.

“So I told them that this Monday would be the last time I would request that they would have to do that for the city,” said the mayor, “with the caveat that obviously, if we see something go up, if we see an increase and go over 50, that we would pick back up and get those numbers that we can display to the public.”

Talks between the city and the hospitals have been productive on planning for the future, said the mayor, regarding the anymore outbreaks.

“I think we’re getting a better idea of how to handle COVID, and how to address it going forward if we have another spike,” he said. “And we’re seeing much better understanding in sort of what we’re working through, [with] the Department of Health, three hospitals, and the Escambia County Emergency Operations.”

Escambia County is also ending its COVID-19 head count as of this Saturday, Nov. 6, according to Public Safety Director Eric Gilmore. “And we felt like when the numbers got below 50, no sense in reporting those numbers daily; because it takes time out their day, they’ve gotta get the census, then send them to us, then we’ve got to update the boards. So we felt like the community was in a safe zone; as long as we see those numbers stay below 50, and the hospitals feel very confident in the way they work to treat the COVID patients.”

As with the city of Pensacola, Gilmore says they will keep their monitoring system ready, in case the hospitalizations begin rising again – just like the spike in cases earlier this year involving the Delta variant.

“There are trigger points set, that if we start seeing a spike or a rise, the dashboard is there to make the community aware as far as hospitalization rates and infection rates,” Gilmore says. “So as long as we stay good, we won’t have to report it. And if we see an unfortunate spike in the community, we’ll absolutely turn the dashboard back on and get those numbers out there again.”

The county's banner at the top of its website will continue to feature information about testing and vaccination sites. While there have been some lessons learned in dealing with the current pandemic, Gilmore is quick to echo cautions from infectious disease experts -- that no two pandemics are alike.

“What may have worked in this one, might not work in the next one; even though we’re not doing the dashboard, the hospitals, county leadership and city leadership are still going to meet this month and December,” said Gilmore. “Just to make sure that if we see a spike, because each time we’ve seen that spike, it’s gone well above the previous one.”

The monoclonal antibody treatment site set up in Pensacola, says Gilmore, was one of the success stories of the pandemic, but he wishes the state had turned it on a little sooner.

“On the front end, we feel like we asked for it somewhere toward the peak or decline of the peak; and it probably would have helped us out a lot quicker on the front end,” he said. “We identified that, we’re identifying additional surge plans to decompress the hospitals and relive some pressure on them, so they don’t get slammed with patients. So we’re still doing planning – we’re not done.”

Florida ranked 16th among states in share of people receiving at least one shot, with 69% of its residents at least partially vaccinated. The national rate is 66.5%. Updates and additional information are available at cdc.gov, and the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.