Concerns raised over dropping mask mandate

by Jeremy Morrison, Inweekly

There’s gonna be some pushback when Mayor Grover Robinson asks the Pensacola City Council to drop the city’s mask mandate.

“Too soon,” said Ann Hill, who represents District 6 on the city council.

“Now is not the time to relax the mandate,” said District 2 council member Sherri Myers.

City council enacted its mask order — which requires the wearing of a mask in public businesses — as the state’s coronavirus spike began its sharp incline earlier in the summer. But Mayor Robinson is asking council to rescind the order because the number of COVID-related hospitalizations have declined.

“We’ve come down over a hundred hospitalizations in a month,” noted the mayor Wednesday, adding that other data points, such as tests positivity rates, also looked encouraging.

But concerns will be raised Thursday night when Robinson brings this matter before city council.

“I will not support doing away with the mandatory mask ordinance,” said Myers, suggesting that the council should consider the issue further, perhaps conduct a public workshop. “We need to ask our healthcare and our medical professionals to weigh in on this and not just take the mayor’s logic.”

Both Myers and Hill said that feedback they’re getting from constituents is overwhelmingly supportive of leaving the mask order in place.

“I could forward at least a dozen pro-mandate emails I’ve received in the past couple of days,” Hill said.

“I’ve gotten lots of emails from people, not one person has supported doing away with masks,” Myers said. “I’ve gotten at least four doctors who have begged us not to repeal the mask ordinance.”

One of the doctors who wrote to Myers, as well as the other six council members, was Dr. Pallavi Sindhu, who called the mayor’s position “not clinically sound judgement” and urged council to leave the order in place until a COVID vaccine has been developed.

“The reason our COVID cases are going down is in part [due] to masking and social distancing,” Sindhu wrote. “I believe that removing the masking mandate will cause our numbers to go up and will put my health, my patients’ health and my family’s health at risk.”

Dr. Jennifer Thompson, a local pediatrician, was another of the doctors to write council members, stressing that the mask order “has been crucial in decreasing the spread of COVID-19 and is essential to continue.”

“As physicians, we know that prevention is key. We do not automatically stop a preventative measure because a child is healthy or there is less disease, we continue it to be sure there is continued good health. The preventative measure is often the reason there is less disease. If you stop it, the disease increases and subsequent harm to the patient ensues,” Thompson wrote. “If you stop the mask mandate, COVID-19 will increase in incidence, more people will die and the pandemic will continue.”

In addition to hearing from members of the medical community, city council members and the mayor have also heard from other notable voices regarding this issue.

John Peacock, former chairman of the Downtown Improvement Board, told council that it “makes no sense” to drop the mask order: “The last thing we need is a spike during the fall and have to roll back reopening of businesses.”

Economist Rick Harper wrote to city officials to tell them that “lifting the mask mandate prematurely is counterproductive for our community”: “The sooner we get rid of COVID-19 , the sooner things can return to normal. To give the City’s stamp of approval to reduced efforts to fight the spread of COVID-19 invites a rebound in the disease, a rebound in hospitalizations and deaths, and a lengthening of the period of economic damage to our community.”

And Stacey Kostevicki, executive director of Gulf Coast Kids House, contended that the city’s mask order had brought “a level of comfort” to the community: “It made ‘masking up’ normal and acceptable. I fear without an ordinance, that small businesses and agencies, such as mine, will have a harder time requiring anyone entering our facility to wear a mask. Making it a rule v. optional feels like a tremendous step backward to me.”

That last point resonates with Councilwoman Myers. She said she knows people who drive into Pensacola to shop because the city has a mask order, whereas Escambia County does not.

“A lot of people tell me they come to Pensacola to shop because they feel safer,” Myers said, adding that she agreed with this rationale. “I don’t shop out in the county.”

— The Pensacola City Council will consider Mayor Robinson’s request to drop the city’s mask order during its meeting Thursday, which begins at 5:30 p.m.


7 thoughts on “Concerns raised over dropping mask mandate

  1. The violation of freedom argument for mandatory mask wearing is ridiculous. Why aren’t the same people worried about the fact that you are required to wear clothes in public? Shouldn’t it be our right to walk around naked if we so choose?

  2. Everyone should were MASK. I do not enter any business when I notice those folks doing the Freedom B.S. and or any business that does not enforce everyone, employee and customer to wear a MASK. Those narrow mind freedom folks are subjecting me and my family to the possibility of catching the virus.

  3. An article posted yesterday in Science Tech Daily on the long-term neurological effects of covid on even asymptomatic patients. Tags are Mental Health, Neuroscience, and Parkinson’s Disease.

    _Long-Term Neurological Consequences of COVID-19: The “Silent Wave”_
    IOS press

    “A team of neuroscientists and clinicians are examining the potential link between COVID-19 and increased risk of Parkinson’s disease and measures to get ahead of the curve.

    “Although scientists are still learning how the SARS-CoV-2 virus is able to invade the brain and central nervous system, the fact that it’s getting in there is clear. Our best understanding is that the virus can cause insult to brain cells, with potential for neurodegeneration to follow from there,” said Professor Kevin Barnham from teh Florey Institute of Neuroscience & Mental Health.”

    In other words, Pensacola and Escambia County need to get with the program and stop looking at covid through a lens of hospitalizations, or any other data completely insufficient to gauging the long term cost of careless spread of this virus.

  4. Also, the recently adjusted surivability rates from CDC:

    0 – 19: 99.997% surivability
    20 – 49: 99.98%
    50 -69: 99.95%
    70 & over: 94.6%

  5. Stats show that city residents have had a slightly higher infection rate even with the mask mandate than those in the unincorporated portion of the county. The masks have not had any significant impact on the spread of the virus. Time to end the mandate. Businesses can choose to require masks if they wish, which many have and will. Individuals can choose to wear masks if they wish.

  6. I concur with the Mayor. I DO NOT shop in/visit ANY facility that DEMANDS me to ‘mask up’. There is so much fear and paranoia about the whole issue. We all have rights according to the first amendment–FREEDOM.
    Mandatory masking is akin to DICTATORSHIP–not democracy. No HUMAN technology can stop ANY illness, NATURE will ALWAYS ‘control’. I have taken care of myself for over 70 years. I do not need nor appreciate being told by ‘strangers’ how to take care of myself.
    Besides there are tons of used masks all over stores, bathrooms, businesses, streets, parking lots, etc. What horrific, disgusting, unsanitary, disrespectful. situations. Perhaps collect and ‘bag’ up this ‘junk’ and park it in the Pensacola City Council and doctors offices. How can they ‘recycle’ this monstrosity?
    I WILL NEVER eat out, go to a movie, visit the upcoming fair, or any such venues. The long term residual effects of the sanitizing processes/chemicals are more harmful than the virus. Think about that, too. It’s ‘forever’ in the heating/air conditioning duct systems circulating year round.
    Thanks for reading and considering the ‘other side of the coin’.

  7. I support retaining the mask requirement in the City of Pensacola. Currently I only shop within the City limits because I feel comfortable and safe because of the mask requirement. Before the requirement I limited shopping to quick trips for essentials only, but recently I have enjoyed shopping for optional items such as home furnishings and accessories, clothing and specialty items. I am an older resident with enough expendable income to benefit the local economy, especially small businesses, but I won’t be out shopping if I don’t feel safe.

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