Escambia brings back COVID-19 dashboard
In light of the rising number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Escambia County linked to the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, the dashboard tracking the cases is back on active duty.
“The infectious rate went down and our hospitalizations went down; but we still maintained coordination and communication with our hospital partners in case we had another wave,” said Eric Gilmore, Escambia County’s public safety director. “When we saw 50 hospitalizations, we would start doing the dashboard again.”
As of Monday, hospitalizations in the county stood at 104, with two of the patients under the age of 18. So far, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports no deaths from the Omicron variant in the county.
“The same dashboard that we had previously, and our hospital partners are going to give us the numbers every day, Monday through Friday, updated daily in the morning,” Gilmore said. “We’ll try to have it up by nine in the morning, but it’s according to when our hospital partners give us the numbers — sometimes it might be a little later — but we do try to update that daily Monday through Friday.”
“According to the Florida Department of Health, the week of Dec. 24 through 30 Escambia County had a positivity rate of 25.6,” said Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson during his weekly news conference on Monday.
“By comparison, our positivity rates in the early part of December were between 3 and 5; so obviously everything has sort of picked up with the Omicron variant. Certainly, if you’re going to be out and about, you need to be vaccinated. It continues to show that most people who have been vaccinated, they struggle with very minimal effects of Omicron.”
One challenge with Omicron, says Robinson, is that more and more people are getting it.
“The severity has come down — that’s not saying severity for all, but compared with what we’ve seen with other variants has been much lower,” said the mayor. “We were talking about this about three to four weeks ago; we’re on it, we know it’s out there, and we’re trying protect ourselves as best as possible. We ask that each of you use proper precautions.”
In resurrecting the COVID dashboard, officials are emphasizing that COVID is, and always has been, both a public safety and a health and medical issue.
“When we had Delta (variant) hit, infection rates went up drastically and then our hospitalization rates went up sharply behind it,” Gilmore said. “We’re not quite seeing that with Omicron, but we have that number out there to let the public look at it and see what’s going on.”
Gilmore, who became public safety director in January 2020, says the toolbox to battle COVID and its variants is a lot larger than when the pandemic exploded in March of that year.
“We had no vaccine; all we had was [personal protective equipment], hand sanitizing, social distancing, isolating the sick, quarantining the well,” he said. “Fast-forward now, toward the end of ’20, we did have vaccines that started rolling out, and then we starting hitting those higher age groups in January and February, and then by the summertime, it got to be where everybody was available. And now we’re down to children as well.”
Mayor Robinson says the “red-yellow-green” system of warning about COVD cases remains in effect for gauging COVID hospitalizations, but adds the numbers involved can be larger thanks to vaccines and the less-severe Omicron.
“Fifty is kind of an arbitrary number of what we thought we understood,” Robinson said. “I would say now with the hospitals communicating to us, is that we can clearly take on probably over 100, and they feel comfortable. Helping the “yellows” from 100-200; once we get over 200 then we start getting concerned.”
Meanwhile, Ascension-Sacred Heart Hospital will resume drive-through COVID-19 testing from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. today at 5192 Bayou Blvd.
The dashboard can be seen at myescambia.com/covid-19.