Mayor: Stay Vigilant, Optimistic in the Face of COVID-19

Mar 16, 2020

Mayor Grover Robinson addresses the media in the courtyard of City Hall.
Credit Dave Dunwoody / WUWF

In accordance with safeguards against coronavirus, Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson held his weekly news conference outdoors in City Hall’s courtyard.

On a cool, breezy morning, chairs for the media were set about three feet apart to practice “social distancing.”

“The city of Pensacola is very focused on the whole, well-rounded picture of everything,” said Robinson. “We’re not simply looking at it from one angle; we’re looking at it from 360 [degree] position as far as all of our citizens.”

The mayor ran through a litany of city actions, such as staying in constant contact with local health, emergency management, and hospitals, regarding public health. He reminded everyone that this is a fluid situation, which could change – literally – by the hour.

“At this time, there’s not any active COVID-19 cases in Escambia County [and] we do not have ‘community spread,’” said the mayor. “The things we’re implementing and the way we go about day-to-day in Escambia County is because, at this point, is because of that. If things change, we will change, and we will probably institute new policies.”

The City of Pensacola and Escambia County are suspending all permitted events with 500 or more attendees for at least two weeks. Both governments are following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to cancel or postpone other events that consist of 50 people or more until further notice. Exceptions include schools, churches, and private events, such as weddings. Other areas remain in “wait and see” mode.

“At this particular time we have no plans to tell restaurants to cancel,” said Robinson. “However, if we reach a certain impact I would tell restaurants to begin to think how they can either provide food for deliver or take-out.”

Robinson met last week with officials at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, and brought back some advice on how to protect yourself – by taking care of yourself.

“One is getting enough sleep [and] you need to find a way to get exercise,” said the mayor. “While our park programming is closed, our parks will be open if you wish to go walk around there – realizing that you need to maintain safe distances between people. Exercise is incredibly important; living right is incredibly important, [and] eating right is incredibly important.”

Despite the program shutdowns, the mayor said they’ll continue to provide meals to seniors and low-income children. And he encouraged residents to help others during this time, beginning with your neighbors.

“Certainly if you have elderly neighbors that can’t get out and they don’t want to be exposed, there are opportunities to help them with their shopping [and] anyway you can assist,” said Robinson. “We’re great in this community about working with people.”

There’s talk about a total national shutdown in the U.S., if COVID-19 reaches a certain level. But Robinson isn’t sure that’s the way to go.

“I think there are a number of different ways that we can handle it; and we’ve got to be cognizant of all our citizens’ needs,” the mayor said. “I don’t think there are any easy answers; there are a series of things that we’re trying to work through and it continues to be very fluid.”

Another action Pensacolians can take, says the mayor, is to fill out their 2020 Census information online between now and April 1, which he says everyone desperately needs to get done.

“It’s very important, our ability to get federal funding to position ourselves is dependent on you filling out that Census report,” Robinson said. “If you are at home for some reason, I would please ask you to find an opportunity to get on your computer, find a way to get access. That is something that you can do that is productive for all of us here as well.”

And Mayor Grover Robinson offered a pep talk of sorts, for those concerned about coronavirus in the days and weeks ahead.

“We’re going to get through this; this is a challenging disease and there’s no doubt that some people with [compromised] immune systems it can be fatal to,” said the mayor. “But the vast majority of people in all these locations are coming out through this.

“We will come through this. So the most important thing for us is not to panic.”