Pensacola’s mask order stays in place

by Jeremy Morrison, Inweekly

The city of Pensacola will continue to require the wearing of masks in public businesses, following the Pensacola City Council’s full-throated, 7-0 unanimous shutdown of Mayor Grover Robinson’s efforts to repeal the city’s mask order aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus.

“Why in the world would you change it?” asked Councilwoman Sherri Myers during Thursday night’s council meeting. “It was hard enough to get people to do it, but they’re doing it.”

For weeks, Mayor Robinson has pointed to the downward trend in local COVID hospitalizations and said he thought the mask order should be dropped when the count fell to 50 hospitalizations, a threshold which was recently met. He repeated his rationale for that decision Thursday, explaining that leaving the mask order in place as conditions improved risked diminishing the public’s respect for the order.

“At this particular time it’s like giving a mandate on a sunny day,” Robinson said.

Council members roundly disagreed. They argued that the widespread wearing of masks was contributing to the falling hospitalization number and that scrapping the order would lead to an increase in COVID cases and hospitalizations.

“Let’s not stop what we’re doing when it’s working,” said Councilwoman Ann Hill.

Myers suggested the city develop a “better organized strategy” for determining when it would be reasonably safe to drop its mask order, as did Councilman John Jerralds: “We need to sit down, buckle down and think about where we’re going and what we’re doing to prevent it.”

Similarly, city council President Jewell Cannada-Wynn suggested that repealing the mask order should be part of a larger strategy that outlines the city’s anticipated reopening process in phases.

“We should have a plan of how to come out of it and still keep our city safe,” she said.

Councilman Jared Moore noted the potential for increased spread of the coronavirus in the wake of Hurricane Sally, as a large number of people have come into the area from elsewhere to help with recovery efforts.

“Thousands of heroes at this point from all over the country converge on our area,” he said, suggesting the city hold off on dropping its mask mandate in case COVID numbers began to rise again. “In two weeks or a month it might be a more comfortable thing to consider.”

Councilman Andy Terhaar pointed out that for the time being the city’s mask order appeared to be good for local businesses as well, making both the customers and employees feel more comfortable.

“Right now people do feel safe going out in our community and spending money in the economy,” he said.

Mayor Robinson said he viewed any repeal of the city’s mask order as pertaining to “management” issues, as opposed to any statement regarding the effectiveness or necessity of masks: “This is by no means a reflection on masks.”

“At this particular time it’s a question of management,” he said. “It’s not a question of masks, because masks certainly work.”

When it became apparent that there were no votes on council in support of repealing the mask order at this time, Mayor Robinson said that the order was resulting in a certain amount of work for city staff and that he was “more than happy to allow the council to manage it” if members preferred leaving the mandate in place.

This notion didn’t sit well.

“The management and operations of this city is the mayor,” said President Cannada-Wynn.

“It is disheartening to me for the mayor to say to us that he’ll give the management of this over to city council if we don’t repeal it,” said Councilwoman Myers. “We’re not going to manage it, we’re going to legislate it and the executive branch will manage it.”

Cannada-Wynn suggested that the council revisit the mask order in a month, to reassess if the city is any closer to returning to what Councilman Moore called our “maskless existence.”

“If there’s a Sally-spike then we’ll know it and if there’s not a Sally-spike we’ll know it,” she said.

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9 thoughts on “Pensacola’s mask order stays in place

  1. Perhaps the masks don’t make a difference due to the number of residents utilizing their rights to infect others. It appears, by the numbers, that they’re doing a fine job. We thank you so much for keeping us all at risk and duly masked. Apparently forever.

  2. Yes, I was using toal positives per 1K. But even using YTD positivity rate, the four counties are within 1% of each other. Still no convincing evidence that the mask mandate had any significant impact on positivity. Also, we are still higher than the other three counties and state in regard to hospitalizations and deaths per 1K.

    I agree on the populations in the zip codes. The large majority of 32501 and 32502 are within city limits. For 32503 and 32504, I only alloted 50% of positives to the city. As I said, it was an estimation. However, my main argument has been if the mask mandate was having a significant impact, you would expect to see a noticeable difference in the positive cases between the city and county.

    That being said, it appears that the governor’s order today took the teeth away from the city mask mandate.

    Anyway, time for a cold beer. Enjoy your weekend Rick.

  3. Steve,

    According to unitedstateszipcodes.org, the population for zip codes 32501, 32502, 32503 and 32504 is 68,480. The 2019 Census estimate for the city of Pensacola is only 52,975. Anyone using those zip codes is overstating the city population by 26.27%.

    We don’t know how many non-city vs city residents make up the 2,877 cases in those zip codes.

    FDOH doesn’t post tests per zip code, so we also don’t know the positivity rate for those four zip codes and whether it’s higher than the rest of the county.

    Based on the data given by FDOH, it is impossible to calculate the total cases inside the city limits and the city’s positivity rate.

  4. The positivity rate year-to-date: Santa Rosa 14%, Okaloosa 13% and Walton 14%. Escambia is 13%–positivity rates aren’t lower.

    It appears you are measuring total resident cases per 1,000 – which is a different rate – one that is a factor of total tests conducted. More tests means more positives. However, the rate of infection is what Gov. DeSantis uses to move to Phase 3.

    When you look at the past two weeks, Escambia County has a lower rate per 1,000 and a much lower positivity rate than the other three counties. Escambia has conducted more tests than Santa Rosa and Okaloosa combined.

    For past 14 days:

    Escambia: 10,659 tests, 361 positives, 1.13 per 1K, positivity rate 3.39%
    Santa Rosa: 4,041 tests, 210 positives, 1.14 per 1K, positivity rate 5.20%
    Okaloosa: 5,007 tests, 333 positives, 1.58 per 1K, positivity rate 6.65%
    Walton: 2,109 tests, 133 positives, 1.79 per 1K, positivity rate 6.31%

  5. The numbers I provided for the three counties to our east were per thousand. Their rates are lower. By utilizing zip codes you can estimate city vs County numbers. Also, on the point of movement of people, alot of the population of Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa travel back and forth on a daily basis. I’ve yet to see one data point that definitively proves the city mask mandate has had a positive impact.

  6. What counties that are Escambia’s size are you talking about? Which ones have had lower rates in July and now?

    Plus, testing data hasn’t been separated by city limits. We don’t know the infection rate for just people living in the city. City residents aren’t isolated to only city businesses and are allowed to shop, live and play outside limits.

  7. What’s the explanation for the other counties having lower numbers? Their positivity rates have fallen also, without a mask mandate.

    And once again, you would expect the city to have had noticeably lower infection rate with the mask mandate than the unicorporated portion, but that’s not the case.

  8. What was the positivity rate today compared to the rate for July? Let’s see 4.44% for Sept. 1-20 to 12.7% for July 1-20. Hmmm, data would show it worked.

  9. Thank goodness we have our self important mayor, city council, unelected buerocrats and medical professionals to keep us safe. The fact of the matter is that Escambia has a higher rate per thousand for total positives, hospitalizations and deaths due to the virus than do the three counties to our east and the entire state. That is with Escambia having 16% of population covered by a mask mandate, while the for the most part the entirety of the three counties to our east have no mask mandate.

    I’m sorry folks, the masks are not making a difference.

    Escambia:
    Total positive – 11,085 – 34.22/1,000
    Hospitalizations – 811 – 2.54/1,000
    Deaths – 228 – 0.72/1,000
    (Pensacola mask mandate covers 16% of county population)

    Santa Rosa:
    Total positive – 5,259 – 25.53/1,000
    Hospitalizations – 310 – 1.68/1,000
    Deaths – 76 – 0.41/1,000
    (Gulf Breeze mask mandate covers 4% of county population. )

    Okaloosa:
    Total positive- 4,844 – 22.99/1,000
    Hospitalizations – 292 – 1.39/1,000
    Deaths – 109 – 0.52/1,000
    (Mary Esther mask mandate covers 2% of county population)

    Walton:
    Total positive – 1,937 – 26.15/1,000
    Hospitalizations – 107- 1.44/1,000
    Deaths- 25- 0.38/1,000

    Florida:
    Total positive- 695,887 – 32.39/1,000
    Hospitalizations – 43,299 – 2.02/1,000
    Deaths – 13,915 – .65/1,000

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