Bender shrugs off city mask resolution

By Jeremy Morrison, Inweekly

Escambia County Commission Vice Chairman Robert Bender isn’t itching to institute a mask mandate.

“I would say the county supports wearing masks in public when you can,” Bender told Inweekly.

The city of Pensacola recently issued a mask order within city limits requiring the wearing of face coverings for indoor public spaces in an effort to curb the spread of COVID. The Pensacola City Council then requested that Escambia County do the same.

Commissioner Bender, whose District 4 lies largely inside the city, said he hadn’t “actually seen the request,” but that he didn’t foresee the county following suit. The county official said such a mask mandate would be difficult to enforce.

“With a mandate you’re giving people an expectation that there will be enforcement, and when they’re isn’t any, you get conflicts,” Bender said.

Bender’s fellow commissioners — with the exception of Commissioner Lumon May — also appear reluctant to impose any such mask mandate. Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson on Monday said he remained hopeful that the county would move on the issue.

“They do have the ability to make a difference,” Robinson said, adding that political considerations should not be in play on this matter. “I could care less about elections or anything else. What we have to do is what’s right for our community.”

Commissioner Bender — who now sits in Robinson’s former seat on the board of county commissioners — said he has not heard from many constituents requesting that the county enact a mask order.

“For about every email we get asking for one, we get two asking us not to,” he said.

Bender also said that area businesses have not pushed for any such mandate.

“Off the top of my head, I’m not aware of one business contacting my office asking for that,” the commissioner said, adding that individual businesses could act on their own to require masks. “Businesses have every opportunity to do it.”

Bender said that local hospital officials seem supportive of the county’s current position.

“They feel the tact we’re taking is appropriate,” he said. “Not one of them have told me we need to do a mask mandate.”

Other local officials have said that hospital officials do point to the use of masks as a key safety measure in the effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Mayor Robinson has repeatedly referenced his own conversations with healthcare professionals, and last week Escambia County School Board Chairman Patty Hightower presented a letter signed by the heads of all three local hospitals as she pushed — ultimately successfully — to have the district require the wearing of masks on school campuses.

Bender declined to say if there was any threshold — the county now has over 7,000 COVID cases — that would cause Escambia to alter course on this matter.

“I think our approach right now is we’re asking you to so we don’t have to tell anyone what to do,” the commissioner said.

Note: In late June, Inweekly had The Political Matrix poll 194 voters from Bender’s District 4, and 77.8% supported a mandatory mask order county-wide. Since the poll, cases and hospitalizations have tripled and deaths have nearly doubled.




12 thoughts on “Bender shrugs off city mask resolution

  1. Steve and Rick,

    I completely get that this is a long-established blog where people need to stay nice. Agreed.

    That’s why the entire spirit of my post was on your opinions, Steve, and not on you as a person.

    But I guess that the “people like you” could very well be construed as ad hominem, in the basic definition of the term being bringing an argument against the person rather than their argument.

    I think the rest of the post, however, is targeted at opinions that you are offering here, which, to my mind, are very misguided, and dangerous to the health, safety, and economy of our community.

    Implicit in my response to you is that I figure you are probably a good person who is simply fooled by the disinformation campaign. Plenty are. In my statement that you will probably come to regret your remarks, that means that I actually think you will come to regret your remarks. Not the opposite. I say what I think. I realize that’s hard for a lot of people to come to grips with.

    There’s no hidden messaging when I put something down in print. If I ask for it to be printed, that’s the stone cold of what I think, for whatever that’s worth.

  2. Steve, it is people like you that are hurting our economy, and would bring it to ruin if your message weren’t being increasingly negated by a little thing called reality.

    Voices like yours that downplay the virus, won’t acknowledge how serious this is, and apparently don’t have the wisdom or imagination to understand how horrendous the impact on our local businesses will be if we don’t stop pretending the virus is a thing–that is the real threat to the direction of our economy.

    Every time you post, you are unknowingly attempting to contribute to eventualities that would crush our local businesses. It’s as simple as that.

  3. Melissa, what is an acceptable number of contagious influeza-type illnesses for which you would not shut down the economy?

  4. Steve, while you continue to run your acceptable loss narrative, more people every day are waking up to the avoidable tragedy truth.

    I wonder if you realize how heartless and cruel your continual Covid Excuses Tour looks to the people who understand the reality of what’s happening here. Not to mention the growing number of people who have watched loved ones go through inexplicable suffering from this virus.

    You will probably come to regret the words you are putting down here. Hopefully you’ll realize that sooner rather than later.

  5. And the percentage of increases are higher in many of the unincorporated areas. See zip code post

  6. It would also be fair to assume the unincorporated part of the county would have a higher positivity rate since no masks are required and it has a population almost five times greater than the city.

  7. That would a fair analysis only if the city had roadblocks to keep city isolated.

  8. Based on the numbers, it still appears that city residents have a higher positive rate than do the residents in the unincorporated portion of the county. One would think that would be the reverse due to the city’s mask ordinance and more aggressive stance on responding to the virus.

  9. Isn’t it strange that Commissioner Bender has received no word from local hospital officials–does that mean administrators?–that a mask mandate would help, when Commissioner Bergosh has posted letters from local healthcare professionals begging him to bring it to the board.

    I sent the below email to area officials and press this morning. With some of the heads on that list so obdurate to common sense and hearts so unmoved by the suffering in their community, it’s less about advocacy at this point and more about paper-trailing on who will be responsible as the sickness and death continue to mount.

    November could get very interesting for some of the incumbents. If they stay well enough to serve.
    Re: Public Records Request

    Melissa Pino Mon, Jul 27, 2020 at 11:31 AM
    To: “Dwelle, Jackie”
    Cc: Norm Ross , Malcolm Thomas , Samantha Goodin , “” , Sharon Goshorn , Steve Marcanio , Shawn Dennis , “Terry St. Cyr” , Keith Leonard , Elisabeth Buswell , “Baker, Stephanie” , June Bell , Tammy Edwards , Robin Boswell , Carrie Hollon , “Oakes, Elizabeth” , Patty Hightower , “Dr. Laura Edler” , Kevin Adams , Billy Slayton , Paul Fetsko , JJ Talbott , District 5 Steven Barry , Lumon May , Jeff Bergosh , Robert Bender , Grover Robinson , Keith Wilkins , “Governor DeSantis, Citizen Services” , Rick Outzen , William Reynolds , Chorus Nylander , Andrew McKay , Teresa Hill , John Singley , Senator Doug Broxson , Representative Alex Andrade , Melissa Pino

    –Chilhood [sic] hospitalizations from covid surge 23% in advance of schools opening. This will get worse in the coming week, whatever DeSantis and the DOH do to try to manipulate the data.

    “Child hospitalizations from Covid-19 surge 23% in Florida as schools statewide must reopen”

    –Experts are doing whatever they can to educate parents against the absolute lie that children don’t transmit and don’t ever get very sick.

    “Your kids could get the coronavirus when they go back to school. These are the risks and benefits to weigh before sending them.”

    –The count of covid long-haulers I have among close personal friendships is up to 4. One is a construction manager in his early 60s, his wife is another, and their teenage son has also not been able to shake it after over a month; the man has kidney damage and had to seek help at an ER last week. A fourth is a woman in her mid twenties whose entire house, including her 8 year old son, has covid. Her symptoms remain severe after a month, and she had to seek treatment at an ER over the weekend for nausea and dehydration, stomach pain, and swelling and pain in her legs.

    “COVID ‘long-haulers’ suffering from symptoms months after testing positive”

  10. Does he not realize he’s receiving emails from “anti maskers” from out of state, due to Underhill begging them for “help”? I know for a fact SEVERAL county businesses want help implementing a mask mandate, since they’re being boycotted by the local anti mask group. Gilley & her gang have turned a humanitarian issue into political one that’s not only harming lives, they’re harming our livelihoods.

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