Communication Chaos

On March 12, County Administrator Janice Gilley apologized for the lack of communication with the media about her administration’s efforts regarding the COVID-19 virus after Inweekly complained about her inaction for two weeks.

“Potentially, we could probably be giving daily updates, so even if by 10 a.m.,” said Gilley. “I do think that’s what everyone feels like they’re experiencing is a void of consolidated information.”

She later added, “We do have to try and find ways to make sure that we are getting the information out to you, and that we are managing it.”

Unfortunately, the county has depended primarily on emailed updates that contain information that is out-of-date, incomplete and, at times, incorrect.

When the Escambia County Emergency Operations Center has been activated in the past for hurricanes, BP oil spill, ice storm, flood and jail explosion, the EOC held daily press briefings. During the BP oil spill, the press briefings were held twice daily for over two months.

The EOC was activated on Tuesday, March 17 with a press briefing at the facility. It was outdoors with limits placed on questions allowed from the media. The EOC has held no other press briefings. None for 15 days.

Ms. Gilley spoke at Mayor Grover Robinson’s March 23 press conference but has not spoken at another presser since then – 10 days.

The media and public have depended on Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson for the most current information about the COVID-19 coronavirus. He has averaged two pressers a week and freely answered every question thrown at him.

We know that information is being collected by the EOC. At Commissioner Jeff Bergosh’s virtual “Coffee with the Commissioner” yesterday, Emergency Director Eric Gilmore said hospitals when they have reported their availability on ICU beds and ventilators and that he would pass on that information to the commissioners.

“Hopefully we’re going to track that daily and get that number out to you guys so you can see real time what’s going on, or at least daily get a report on that,” said Gilmore.

If the information is available for the commissioners, why hasn’t it been included in the COVID-19 updates to the media?

Mayor Robinson sends to the media daily a text message about the latest test statistics from Ascension Sacred Heart. None of those numbers are included in the county’s updates. The test results given in the updates are hours old. If the county would better coordinate its updates with Florida Dept. of Health’s updates to its dashboard – which happened at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m EDT, then the public would get the most recent stats.

The county communication plan is sloppy and unfocused.

Today at 11:30 a.m.,Escambia County will hold a press conference outside the EOC, 6575 North “W” St., about the Governor’s “safer at home” order and what it means for Escambia County residents and governmental operations.

The press conference will be streamed live at:

Attendees will include:
Escambia County Board of County Commissioners
Escambia County Administrator Janice P. Gilley
Florida Department of Health Director Dr. John Lanza
Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan
City of Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson IV
Escambia County Emergency Manager Eric Gilmore

Will reporters be allowed to ask questions unrestricted?

Stay tuned.