Coronavirus rates in Pensacola appear to be easing a bit, according to Mayor Grover Robinson, but still hovering in that ten to 18% range.
“It would be better it we could keep [the COVID rate] down, but we would seem to be daily in that occurrence,” said Robinson during his weekly virtual news conference. He added that some of the new case numbers have seen some leveling or decline – the latter in hospitalizations.
“We sent from 261 on [Jan.] 20th; 264 on the 21st then 252 on the 22nd, 233 on the 23rd, [Sunday] 222 and [Monday] we’re at 225 – a slight increase – but the Wednesday, right after our last press conference, we were at 291.”
But despite the trends coming down, Robinson urges residents to continue masking up, washing hands and social distancing.
“Remember the mask ordinance is still in effect – the City Council voted to extend it through Feb. 25 – which requires face coverings to be worn while inside the city limits,” said the mayor. “We can drive down these numbers; we’ve seen them come down [by] almost 70 hospitalizations. So if we can do that again for the next week and a half, we will be in a much better place.”
Florida continues to prioritize vaccinations for residents over 65, and health care workers, but the mayor adds that for now, demand is outstripping supply, and he’s asking for patience.
“We do expect to have a number of vaccines coming online here in the very near future,” Robinson said. “We will be able to get there, and it is going to be a significant difference. But we’ve got to get everybody a second shot. If you don’t get the second shot you’re only about 50% covered; you get the second shot you’ll be over 95% effective.”
Meanwhile, Gov. Ron DeSantis is drawing fire — again — from Florida’s congressional Democrats. In a letter, they’re calling on him to improve communications and do better to “expeditiously administer the vaccines." Here’s DeSantis in Jacksonville Monday morning.
“We’re reporting as of [Monday] morning 1.25 million vaccinations happening; but many more are going to be reported because of the lag in reporting,” said the governor. “And obviously you’re going to have 50,000 to 80,000 done today as well. So when you look at it from the perspective of the first doses, we’ve gotten a very high percentage of them and we continue to go even higher.”
A staunch supporter of former president Donald Trump, DeSantis is hearing the new Biden administration call Trump’s vaccine rollout a "dismal failure." Democrats also criticize the governor for non-actions, such as foregoing shelter-in-place orders last year, and the lack of a statewide mask mandate.
“I saw some of the stuff that Biden’s putting out; he’s going to create these FEMA camps and whatever,” DeSantis said. “I can tell you that’s not necessary in Florida. All we need is more vaccine. If you get us more vaccine we have through-put to be able to get it through. I can expand Publix; we can do more drive-thrus.”
Asked about the dispute over vaccines between Washington and Tallahassee, Mayor Robinson believes that is somewhat above his pay grade.
“We control what we have at the city of Pensacola, and over here we’re working as hard as we can to make sure we have a good supply coming in here,” said the mayor. “I know Florida was securing supplies and I have no idea. The President and the Governor, the two administrations, will have to figure that out.”
Pensacola, said the mayor, will be as receptive to working with whoever to get vaccines and other aid to residents as he gets the latest numbers from area hospitals.
“When you see what’s going on with what the hospitals are doing here, any news that I get from them we will share on Wednesday on our Facebook Live,” said Robinson. “If we have any new information about vaccines, we will [also] share that information on Wednesday.”
Last week, the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County administered 410 COVID-19 vaccines in-house – and roughly 2,450 doses through community partners.