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Mayor: 'Help Stop the Spread of COVID-19'

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

A COVID-19 update, city park usage, social distancing and a message to hoarders – all in Monday’s weekly news conference with Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson.

First, an update on the numbers; the good news, said the mayor, is there’s a substantial number of test results being returned from the area’s largest testing center at Ascension-Sacred Heart Hospital.

“Out of the 1,700 roughly that have come in – 1,688 – out of that roughly 84 are positive in our area,” said the mayor. “So the positives are definitely up, but it’s running about still five percent.

Among them:

  • 50 in Escambia County;
  • 20 in Santa Rosa
  • 5 in Okaloosa
  • 1 in Walton
  • 1 in Bay
  • 1 from Louisiana
  • 6 from Alabama

The area’s four major hospitals, according to Robinson, are functioning under the capacity they have, including COVID patients and persons under investigation, or PUI.
“Sacred has one in-house, with two PUIs; West Florida has zero in-house with COVID with eight PUIs,” Robinson said. “Baptist has two positive COVIDs in house; nine PUIs, and Gulf Breeze has three in-house [and] five PUIs.”

Preventive measures have been extended until the end of April. Among them, continuances in social distancing -- at least six feet apart -- takeout meals only from restaurants, and in some cases just staying home.

“Again, this is incredibly important that we all work to do our part to help stop the spread of COVID-19; and remember to practice your social distancing and preventive measures,” said the mayor. “As well as eating right, sleeping right and washing your hands. Some of these things are just things we need to be doing all the time.”

And if you do go outside, keep gatherings to 10 or fewer people – especially in the city’s 93 public parks.

“Our ability to keep these parks open is contingent upon you,” Robinson said. “We’ve had a couple of complaints of some fairly large, over the weekend, gatherings at basketball games. If you play, please play; but everyone else has to leave until it’s their time to play.”

Credit Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media
Supermarkets are having trouble keeping certain items in stock because of the pandemic, such as toilet paper and cleaning supplies.

Unlike other Florida cities, there’s no total shutdown order for Pensacola. Robinson says vigilance is needed, but the city is not in the same positions as those downstate, where Gov. Ron DeSantis has announced a “Safe at Home” rule for all of Southeast Florida.

“For those of you who think this is an unreal, made-up problem, I don’t think you have to look any further than New Orleans to see that this is a real thing,” the mayor said. “Certainly within our own community we have people here [with coronavirus]. I think when you look at somewhere like New Orleans it’s even more significant.”

That brings Robinson to the economic side of COVID-19. It will be months before visitors return to New York and New Orleans, he says, because of the issue of contamination. Pensacola’s tourist-based economy, said the mayor, cannot stand being one of those “hot spots.”

“We need to do everything we can to continue to make sure that when we emerge from this, Pensacola is seen as a clean city, and a healthy city,” Robinson said. “And I think if we do that, our economy will recover and we will bounce back as we move forward.”

And Mayor Grover Robinson had a special message for those who hit the stores and buy up every roll of toilet paper and hoard other necessities: your actions are not helping.

“It’s the fear that drives the hoarding; if we can let go of our fear – some of the fear of the virus some of the fear of the economy – we’ll make better decisions,” said the mayor. “Please – buy what you need and can use. But don’t buy anything more because [of] everyone else. We’ve got a large community and it’s all dependent on making sure that we have access to all these things.”

Meanwhile, a new drive-through testing site for coronavirus opens Tuesday at 470 South Highway 29 in Cantonment, in a partnership involving Escambia County, Community Health Northwest Florida and Ascension Sacred Heart. Those pre-screened by phone will be eligible for the nasal swab test. That number is (850) 746-2684.

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.