As the number of coronavirus cases continue to climb, Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson is out with a repeat of restrictions within the city limits.
Speaking at his weekly virtual news conference, the mayor said it’s being made necessary by a “fairly significant” jump in positivity and hospitalizations over the past few days.
“On Jan. 9 we were at 16.1 percent,” said Robinson. “This follows 16.45; 15.04, and 14.86 for the three prior days. COVID-19 hospitalizations – on [Jan.] 10th we had 258; on the 6th we had 268, [the] 7th and 8th 265. [Jan.] 9th we had 270 and then [Sunday] we were down to 258.”
This is not a new action. Most of the restrictions were implemented during the surge of the virus last summer. The mayor says a jump in cases and hospitalizations has forced the changes in guidelines for city-permitted events.
“The city of Pensacola will not issue new permits for outdoor events at city venues; this will remain in effect until Feb. 28,” said Robinson. “It will be reevaluated on that basis with current conditions with COVID-19.”
Events already issued permits or in the permitting process between now and the end of February – if they’re outdoor events – will be allowed under certain conditions.
“No more than 100 in attendance; must show control of crowd congestion and follow CDC guidelines including wearing face coverings and practice social distancing,” the mayor said. “Outdoor markets are allowed to continue above the 100 [person] cap, but they must show crowd congestion and follow CDC guidelines.”
Indoor events at city venues are limited to 25% capacity or less, with distancing and face coverings mandatory. They also require mayoral approval until February 28.
“These restrictions apply only to city of Pensacola permitted events at city venues; they do not apply to private events,” said Robinson. “Private events are welcome to do those things as they fit within the state’s guidelines. The city will work with event organizers to reschedule any events as needed.”
Because of the surge, City Hall is closing as of Monday, and a number of city services are going online or telephone-only until further notice. Robinson says the restrictions are roughly the same as was put into place last summer.
“We found them successful in helping us curb things; we want to continue to keep as many private things open and going, so we don’t want the public to become a contributor,” said the mayor. “And so for these reasons we will be having these closures.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis toured a local vaccination site at Olive Baptist Church last week, and praised the involvement of the faith-based community. But he was quick to add a major challenge is a balancing act between the government and private entities.
“What you don’t want the government to do, is to try to displace our healthcare infrastructure that we have here,” said DeSantis. “They know what they’re doing; they know how to deliver this. And it’s not only the hospitals; we have county health departments that are in the fight, we have these drive-in sites. That’s really a better delivery mechanism.”
Mayor Grover Robinson says for now, expanding vaccine locations – both faith-based and secular – is on hold because of supply.
“We’ve placed all of our sites in there, we believe they’re well set up to take this kind of thing,” the mayor said. “If the state chooses to use private companies as we move forward, we’ll try to work with those decisions. Those are decisions that will be made beyond the city’s capability and we are simply here as a partner to help in any way we can.”
As the amount of vaccines increases – from Moderna, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and others – the mayor was asked if there are plans to establish a “mega-site” for giving vaccinations in the Pensacola area. He said that’s also the state’s call.
“If they want to do Maritime Park, we certainly have that; if they want to do community centers and some of the other things, we’ve placed all of those things at their disposal,” said Robinson. “So they know; I’m sure [Escambia] county has also turned in the [Pensacola] Bay Center.”
More information on the changes in agency schedules and services because of the COVID-19 restrictions can be found at www.cityofpensacola.com.