At today’s press conference at the Escambia Emergency Operations Center, city and county leaders were reluctant to list any businesses being closed by Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Executive Order 20-91.
When asked by Inweekly about any specific types of businesses being closed, County Administrator Janice Gilley said only bingo parlors are under consideration at this time.
“The county commission has not taken specific action to close businesses, and I would be more than happy for the mayor to speak,” she said. “We will be entertaining this evening an order specifically related to bingo parlors, because I do think there may need to be some clarification from the county commission about that particular entity.”
Mayor Grover Robinson said his staff was asking for voluntary compliance with the order until his staff can figure out how to implement it.
“Rick, I think at this particular time, we’re looking for compliance ,and we’ve asked for those kinds of things within businesses,” said the mayor. “So seeing that tonight is when the order goes into effect, it’s still a little bit early for us to see what’s there, but I think we’ve tried to be very clear about those things that are essential and non-essential and that we begin to figure out what those things are.”
He added, “I think you see what was in the Miami-Dade. We hope people have had a chance to read that and seeing the different businesses that are listed.”
Inweekly asked, “So like closing bars, restaurants and gyn, this is going to be voluntary for all those other businesses at this moment?”
“Right now, we’re asking people to figure out how to comply within it,” answered Mayor Robinson. “I think we’ll come out of the week, and we’ll understand a little bit better where we are.”
Primarily for over 65?
“What this means is that residents should stay home so they adhere to social distancing unless they need to take care of the essential activities,” Commission vice-chair Robert Bender said in his opening remarks. “It’s safer at home, especially for senior citizens and individuals with a significant underlying medical condition such as chronic lung disease, moderate to severe asthma, serious heart conditions, immune compromised status, cancer, diabetes, severe obesity, renal failure and liver disease to limit the risk of exposure to COVID-19.”
He continued, “What it does mean though is that residents can still grocery shop, fuel their vehicle, exercise, reminding that there’s that six foot distance that we’re asking people to keep from someone else and less than 10 people, walk, bike, hike, fish, hunt, run, swim. You can go to the bank, go to the pharmacy, vet or go to the doctor, if tele-doc is not available.”
Sheriff David Morgan said the city, county and sheriff’s office public information got together and said, “We need to come before the public and talk a little bit about this to reassure everyone that basically nothing has changed.”
“What the Governor did yesterday was he issued a warning for those, again, who are the most high risk in our community, those that are 65 and older specifically,” said the sheriff. “It was a plea asking them to please, again, please follow the advice of our medical professionals. Limit your outside contact. It was not a lockdown order. It was never meant to be construed as, ‘You now must stay in your home 24/7; and hopefully, someone will come and take care of you, and if they don’t, you’re in real trouble.’ That was not the message at all.”
A Panhandle Version?
Later during the presser, Commissioner Doug Underhill said he was working with commissioners across the panhandle for recommendations on how the Safe-at-Home order could be implemented in Northwest Florida differently than in south Florida.
“I will tell you that there are Commissions from across the Panhandle who started getting together and talking about ordinances that are more appropriate for the panhandle than the Miami-Dade model,” said the commissioner. “What’s starting to happen now is that commissioners across the Panhandle are getting together and making sure that we have a message that we can put forward to the Governor to show him what is right for Escambia County, Bay County, Walton, Okaloosa, and Santa Rosa.”
He added, “This Governor has always been a huge supporter of home rule; he recognizes the diversity of Florida; and he recognizes that what’s right for Escambia County is not necessarily what’s right for Miami-Dade. And as a governor, he has to give us the environment in which we local leaders can lead in a way that’s appropriate and best for our citizens.”