Responding a jump in hospitalizations due to the coronavirus, Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson issued State of Emergency Declaration 20-07 on Tuesday.
Hospitalizations in the city’s three hospitals -- Ascension-Sacred Heart; Baptist, and West Florida -- increasing to 78 as of Tuesday, three more than the threshold set by Robinson.
“Back in September we made it clear that 75 [beds] was something was going to be acceptable to what we could tolerate in our community,” said the mayor. “But once our hospitalizations got above 75 I’ve been very clear – this is something that we needed to call an emergency to.”
While the current rate is pushing the local hospitals, the mayor says they’re not yet to a critical standard – but it is a standard, he adds, that they need to sound the alarm in a couple of areas.
“One is hospitalizations are typically two weeks in the rear-view mirror; we could still see more increase as we go forward,” Robinson said. “We saw it happen in May and June, and now we see it happen again here. We’ve got to manage this process.”
President Trump held a campaign rally in Pensacola about two weeks ago, with reportedly little, if any, face coverings and no social distancing. Robinson was asked if he thought the Trump rally contributed to the uptick in COVID hospitalizations. He made no comment on that, but did say there have been other high-attendance events.
“There a lot of things going on; the fair, football games, a variety of things that I’ve seen,” said the mayor. “We’re getting more and more calls about different businesses; we’re still sending Code Enforcement to businesses to remind them that we still have a mask ordinance and that we’re still in the middle of dealing with COVID.”
Pensacola residents and visitors should continue to take steps to protect themselves and others from COVID-19, says the mayor, who refers everyone to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s coronavirus playbook – masks, social distancing, and frequent hand-washing and/or sanitizing
“We need to all step up and take the proper precautions and just rededicate ourselves to those behavior that we were doing before; it’s not like you can put a mandate on and leave it alone and go away,” said Robinson. “We’re going to have to manage this process – and that’s what we said in September.”
Certain non-essential businesses – such as bars and sit-down restaurants – were shut down in the initial phase of the pandemic. Restaurants were allowed only drive-through and take-out. Robinson was asked if another round of closings are on the table, if push comes to shove.
“The last thing we want to do is business shutdowns; there are a lot of things we can do without shutting down businesses,” the mayor said. “We had businesses open in July, [and] we had businesses open in May. Now if there are certain businesses that lead to behaviors that create more COVID, then we will have to look at those things.”
A new concern is the upcoming holiday season, when friends and families gather in relatively small spaces such as homes. Each family will have to take it upon themselves to come up with measures to keep their guests and themselves as safe as possible.
“If somebody in your family is sick, then that individual may not be able to come to the Thanksgiving dinner,” said Robinson. “If everybody’s well, there’s no problem with everybody getting together. Nobody more than your family you’ve got to be honest with about your health. That’s as much as a help to them.”
Drug manufacturer Pfizer this week announced a coronavirus vaccine that could be 90% effective and could roll out by the end of the year. Mayor Grover Robinson applauds the news.
“But I don’t want us to totally let our guard down; I keep preaching this is not over,” the mayor said. “It’s a sustained, long-term event that we’re going to have to work through as a community.”
Florida hospitalizations due to COVID-19 have increased by 25% over the last two weeks, and more than 35% in the last 30 days, according to the state Department of Health. As of Tuesday, the state listed 3,034 in hospitals with a primary diagnosis of COVID-19.