Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson’s second virtual news conference Monday crossed the spectrum on the coronavirus, what the city’s doing to curb its spread, and a bit of a preview of after it passes.
“We encourage everyone to continue to follow the CDC guidelines and take preventative actions, even if you feel perfectly healthy,” said Robinson.
Speaking from his home where he’s under quarantine, the mayor said he spoke with officials from area hospitals, and all facilities seem to be “on green” for now when it comes the number of beds.
“There still seems to be considerable capacity in all three of our hospitals (Baptist, West Florida and Ascension Sacred Heart) as we move forward, even after events with the nursing homes,” said Robinson. “At least, at that particular time, the work that we’re doing is keeping the problems from getting to the point where we were worried about. But we’ve got to stay vigilant, and I think these next two weeks will probably be the most critical for us.”
Roger Scott Tennis Center was among the recreational facilities closed because of the coronavirus, and was done so after consulting with the United States Tennis Association.
“We have closed those courts, and certainly ask that you continue to work with us at this particular time,” Robinson said. “When we can get those back open we’ll reopen them, but at this time I ask that you not be playing tennis. Also, there’s a reminder that our city parks – our green spaces – remain open.”
Robinson also addressed an incident at Attucks Court near Baptist Hospital on Easter Sunday, in which “hundreds of people” gathered, despite calls for social distancing. Police dispersed the crowd, and the mayor reminded everyone again to keep their distance.
“It was mostly people who were under 30 looking for something to do,” the mayor said. “And we’re asking people to – again – realize that it’s not just about you, it’s about others related to you and it’s about a community. We can’t do this without all being together. But clearly there are some things that we may have to look at over the next couple of weeks.”
Uncle Sam is providing some extra funds for the city to help cope with the pandemic. As a part of the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Securities Act -- (CARES) – Pensacola will receive more than $450,000 in Community Development Block Grant money from HUD.
“These funds will be used to address a wide variety of public health and public service activities to prevent, prepare, and respond to COVID-19,” said the mayor. “CDBG funds must be utilized for activities that target low- to moderate-income housing. We’re awaiting further guidance from HUD regarding the availability date of funding, and guidance as the activities that will be eligible.”
The main issue, says Robinson, is time – the next two weeks, he contends, will be critical. Part of that involves maintaining significant hospital bed capacity for those with the virus, and to get them the treatment they need for recovery.
“I think in two weeks we will certainly be looking at how we begin to open some things back up,” the mayor said. “I don’t see things opening up all at once, but I do think your governmental units – local, state and federal – will begin to look at how they can move with some things. We certainly understand over six weeks is going to be very difficult.”
While the coronavirus is new, what’s not new is what we’ve seen with other crises, such as the 2010 oil spill and the ice storm that hit in 2014. Now, as back then, the key commodity is time.
“So that we can figure out what to do with the virus; how to treat it, how to build up our supplies,” Robinson said. “And for the most part, what [constituents] have done -- in Escambia County, City of Pensacola, and Northwest Florida – you have provided time for your hospitals [and] your governments to do a better job at understanding how to do this.”
And on a non-COVID note, Mayor Grover Robinson reminds Pensacolians that while they’re at home, it’s a great time to fill out their Census 2020 forms and return them. So far only about 45-50 percent have done so. What’s needed, says Robinson, is an accurate head count.
“It’s very vital to us, certainly representation is based off that but not only representation, there are a number of things that come off the Census,” said Robinson. “Our ability to track down either federal or state monies is going to be very dependent on you filling out that form. I encourage all of you to do it, and we certainly need all of your help to make that happen.”
More information on the Census can be found at 2020census.gov.