Mayor Grover Robinson is out with his draft "Recover Pensacola" plan — a framework for reopening the city safely and helping the local economy recover from COVID-19.
At issue for what reopens, where and when, is the number of hospitalizations in the area and the impact the coronavirus is having on first responders. Robinson says they’re watching that and basing decisions on the city’s color indicator – green, yellow, and red.
“As long as we’re in green, we’re going to continue to find ways to open up the economy,” said Robinson. “I realize there is a divide that’s happening in our country, our community and our state at this particular time, and I don’t think there should be a divide. I think leadership works together to put a respectable, reasonable way to work is, has become something we all should get in touch with.”
Speaking on Facebook from his office at City Hall on Thursday, the mayor said while incorporating the state plan from Gov. Ron DeSantis, Pensacola is focusing on more local issues, such as recreation.
“We’ll be opening up the tennis facility at Roger Scott and we’ll be putting nets back up on tennis facilities throughout the city limits,” the mayor said. “On hard courts we will be going every other court because we want to disperse and give space to players. On the soft courts that are self-contained, we are going to allow courts to play next to each other.”
For the hoopsters, the basketball goals are going back up, and participants are being asked to keep it to groups of 10 people or less. The courts will be monitored to ensure compliance.
“Your ability to comply responsibly with what we’re asking you to do is what is going to allow us to continue to keep doing these things,” said Robinson. “So we ask you – whatever parks and recreation you’re using in the city of Pensacola, that you use it responsibility so that we can continue to offer those amenities.”
Playgrounds are also reopening, and Robinson reminds parents they need to bring their own disinfectant if their kids want to play on the equipment. But he added that there’s been no uptick in COVID-19 cases among children.
“Kids, one way or another, out of school are getting together,” Robinson said. “They share bike equipment, play equipment [in] a variety of things they end up doing. And through all of this the last 6 weeks, we have not seen a tremendous impact in children.”
Prior to the mayor’s Facebook appearance, Gov. DeSantis announced that business reopenings across Florida will begin on Monday, rather than the original Friday start time.
“But on May 4, there will be the opportunity for restaurants to come open and have outdoor seating, and have 25% indoor seating,” said the mayor. “They’re going to ask that you space the tables appropriately; that you keep 6 ft. distance.”
Also beginning Monday, retail stores will be allowed 25% of indoor capacity.
“Your larger box stores are going to be more of an issue; your smaller retail, we’re going to asking that there are less than 10 people that they’re working with,” said Robinson. “And if somebody’s in there that we give time. We may have to stand outside and wait to come into a store, but the point is we’re going to be looking to figure out how to do it.”
Businesses in downtown Pensacola will be able to expand their outdoor presence. Personal services – hair and nail salons among them – remain in limbo until the state makes the call. Another exception to the reopening plan for now are large venues such as Bayfront Stadium, Pensacola Bay Center, and Saenger Theater. Robinson sides with the governor in saying he doesn’t see that happening now.
“Minor-league baseball has continued to close itself, so at this point I don’t see anything that’s pressing us,” said the mayor. “We’d love to get the Saenger back open, but we totally understand we’re not going to open it, as long as it’s not safe to bring that number of people inside.”
Many have asked about a time when those and other venues will reopen. The mayor says that remains to be seen, but adds it’s up to residents and their behavior.
“If we do the things we’re supposed to do, if we find ways to be compliant, we’ll be far more aggressive in that approach and we will see things open up faster,” said Robinson. “If we don’t do things the right way, and we relapse and have other problems, it could be a long time before we open.”
More information on the mayor’s reopening plan can be found at cityofpensacola.com.