Pensacola was in the national news this weekend, but not in a positive way. As media outlets upped their coverage of the coronavirus, the newscasts and articles repeatedly mentioned Pensacola as one of the places where someone died from the virus.
The impact on tourism has been immediate, and people are questioning what County Administrator Janice Gilley and her leadership team will do to combat the effect of the coronavirus on our community and local economy.
Last Friday night, the Florida Department of Health tweeted that the coronavirus patient from Santa Rosa County that was hospitalized at Baptist Hospital in Pensacola had died.
Sources in the Pensacola lodging industry shared with Inweekly that hotel occupancy for March 6 was down over 40% vs. budget on the beach and down 20% over the year—“and seems just to be getting started with cancellations piling up.”
Our county government’s dysfunction hurts us as the virus hits our community— an inexperienced county administrator and director of communications and public information making decisions, a new Visit Pensacola CEO, and coming after the county administrator threw her most experienced emergency disaster leader, John Dosh, under the bus over EMS.
“The response from the county on the virus, in general, hasn’t been good this far, and with tourism, this could greatly impact county tax collections and seasonal jobs,” shared our source.
On Saturday, Governor Ron DeSantis ordered the Division of Emergency Management activated to Level II to coordinate a statewide response to the coronavirus in Florida.
The Division of Emergency Management has begun activating its ESF 18 partners – which includes chambers of commerce, economic development agencies and tourism partners. They will host their first weekly telephone conference this Wednesday.
Will Gilley activate the Escambia County Operations Center?
Commissioner Jeff Bergosh has asked Gilley to place on the Committee of the Whole agenda– scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday, March 12–a discussion of the county’s response to the coronavirus.
“As we see this Coronavirus erupting nationwide and worldwide, I believe we need to be proactive in our leadership in discussing how we will handle an outbreak locally should we encounter such an event,” wrote Bergosh in his email to the county administrator. “We should be having discussions with citizens and community partners NOW with respect to how we will handle mass-transit if this virus spreads locally (e.g. staffing if drivers get infected, disinfecting plans of bus surfaces, etc.).”
He added, “We need to discuss preparations and steps we will take at all of our public facilities. We need to socialize our plan, and we need to engage our stakeholders publicly on this.”
Latest statistics from FDOH, as of 6:55 a.m.CDT, Monday, March 9:
2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Positive Cases of COVID-19
Deaths: 2 – Florida Residents
Number of Negative Test Results: 140
Number of Pending Testing Results: 115
Number of People Under Public Health Monitoring:
*Florida Cases Repatriated: The United States Department of State officially coordinated the return of a person living in Florida to the United States and those persons are isolated at a federally designated site until healthy. A repatriated case is when the United States Department of State officially coordinates the return of a Florida resident to the United States.