LEDE: Health officials say more than 30,000 Floridians have died of COVID-19, but hospitalizations and cases have continued to drop -- including in Northwest Florida, according to Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson.
During his weekly virtual news conference Monday morning, Robinson lauded declines in overall cases and hospitalizations in the past few days. Over that time, cases have dipped to below the seven percent threshold.
“We were at 5.21% on Feb. 20, which goes from 5.67; 2.89, [and] 5.2,” said the mayor. “So being at 5% is very good; anything under seven, under six, is really getting us back to where we need to be.”
COVID-19 hospitalizations at the three major hospitals – Baptist, West Florida and Sacred Heart – are also on the decline.
“[Sunday] they were at 104; they’ve hovered at that level – 107, 108, 113 and now 104,” Robinson said. “We’re hoping to get soon to double digits. And if we get those things, we’ll begin to look at what we can do – mask ordinance, and other measures – to relieve those. But we’ve got to be continuing to watch what’s going on."
If the downward trend continues, the mayor says there could be some changes in the city’s reaction to the virus.
“We can work with citizens; be less restrictive; [but] if things go up, we’ve got to get back to our good habits and continuing to do that,” the mayor said. “So we’re continuing to work through it; we’ll stay on top of everything that’s going on with COVID.”
Right now the key – as is the case nationwide – is the vaccines and their availability. Inclement weather last week delayed shipments to the Florida Department of Health. The agency’s expecting to receive 2,500 doses of the Moderna vaccine this week.
Locally, work is underway to reschedule last week’s appointments for this week, as the shipments roll in.
“Sacred Heart will have 400 [doses], Baptist will have 400,” said Robinson. “Community Health will have 800; DOH-Escambia 500, West Florida 200 and Woodland specialists 200.”
More information is available at escambiahealth.com.
“Do not contact providers directly for these appointments,” said Robinson. “They will be working with you.”
Concerns over the disparity between whites and minorities in distribution continue to be expressed across the nation. In the Florida Panhandle, Robinson says the issue at this point is supply, rather than distribution.
“When I look at distribution, I think we’ve got a pretty good cross-section across Escambia County,” said the mayor. “I think some of it has also been, ‘What do we do to assure all community members that there’s an opportunity, and it’s safe to get the vaccine. And it’s going to be necessary.”
It’s vital, says the mayor, that health officials and the city work with the Black community to make sure a vaccine – be it Moderna, Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson or something else – is available to all.
“I think that we need to be working with partners like the alliance of Black pastors that is really working to make sure that everybody understands the importance of getting the vaccine,” said Robinson. “And that even though vaccines have had some stigmas in some of our communities, we need to look past that and really work together on this one.”
Later on Monday, DOH-Escambia County announced more vaccine is on the way to the Pensacola area. One thousand doses for the Health Department; 900 each for Sacred Heart and Baptist, Community Health Center 1,600, West Florida Hospital 400 doses, and Woodlands 200.