With the Gulf Coast bracing for Hurricane Zeta, Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson used part of his weekly news conference to urge residents to be on their guard.
“It’s a beautiful day (Monday) but we obviously find ourselves again with the potential of a storm coming into the Gulf of Mexico; and if this sounds like a broken record, this is the third time in little over a month that this has happened,” said Robinson.
The current forecast is for Hurricane Zeta to approach the northern Gulf Coast on Wednesday, making landfall Wednesday evening and creating impacts into Thursday morning.
“The specifics at this particular time are still a little bit too unknown; but we know we have the potential for dangerous surf, strong winds, coastal flooding, heavy rainfall and a possible tornado,” the mayor said. “Residents should monitor the latest forecast to make sure you’re making necessary precautions.”
Zeta is showing up with one week to go before what Robinson considers another “storm” — the Nov. 3 election.
“If there’s ever an election that I can’t wait to hurry up and get over, it’s this one,” said Robinson. “I’m going to let you in on a little secret; what makes Pensacola great is the people that are here. It’s not the people who vote for Biden; it’s not the people who vote for Trump that make this a great community. We’re a great community because we focus and have the ability to live together and work together.”
Before the news conference, the mayor handed out copies of an organizational chart, showing who runs the respective departments within city government — which was two years in the making.
“On Nov. 4 no matter what happens, the sun’s going to rise and the team [in the chart] is going to be focused on picking up your garbage; taking care of your streets, monitoring for crime, and taking care in case there’s a fire,” said Robinson. “We’ll be preparing parks and a variety of other things will happen on Nov. 4, regardless of who wins.”
“Go vote” is the call from the mayor – vote for your choices.
“We’re Pensacolians and when we come out of this election we’ll still be Pensacolians, and the need for us will never be greater for us to work as we come forward,” said the mayor. “We have a lot of issues in front of us. We have potential hurricanes; we have COVID, we have a variety of other things that are in front of us.”
In his weekly report on local COVID-19, cases, Robinson said positivity rates are well within limits, and hospitalizations continue not to have an impact. That said, he also made another call to social distance and wear a face covering when out. The challenge is managing the coronavirus.
“There’s [a] likelihood that we will be living with COVID for long into the future; what we need to be developing related to masks is good discipline,” said the mayor. “We shouldn’t have to tell you to wear a mask; it should be an automatic that everybody understands what’s going on. There will be times when we have surges and time when we have lax. We’ll have to operate within that.”
Most of those attending Friday’s campaign rally featuring President Trump inside the hangar at ST Engineering showed no social distancing and very few masks. The mayor was asked about any concerns that could eventually drive up the COVID hospitalization rate. He said a better number to track are the positivity numbers.
“We’ll know more probably 2 weeks from today; but at this particular time I feel good that we’re tracking the right number,” Robinson said. “We’re tracking the number that makes the most sense for us in understanding. And at the end of the day, the only challenge with us is that we are a few weeks behind.”
If hospitalizations return to the 75 figure or higher, an emergency would be reinstituted and reiterate to residents what’s going on with the pandemic.
“We’re all learning how to deal with it better, we’re learning what to do,” said the mayor. “And I think going forward we will have these periods of more surge and we will have periods that are more lax. This is why we come to you and talk to you about what’s going on to let you know where we are at this particular time. And even if we’re in a time of lax, that does not mean that we shouldn’t develop good discipline.”
Elsewhere, the Mayor Robinson announced the final week of debris removal from Hurricane Sally begins Monday, Nov. 16. So far, crews have collected more than 463,000 cubic yards since the collection began Sept. 21.