Inweekly had three questions for County Administrator Janice Gilley to answer at Commissioner Jeff Bergosh’s virtual “Coffee with the Commissioner” this morning.
1. What county departments have been instructed to wear masks while working?
Commissioner Jeff Bergosh answered first.
“Obviously, our EMS and our first responders wear them as appropriate,” he said and then tossed to Gilley. “What about folks that are working in the different departments?”
“I would also mention that our ECAT drivers, the staff at ECAT, and then also our maintenance employees are wearing masks as well,” she said. “We do have a number of personnel that are wearing masks.”
The county administrator said the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recommended people wear mask, “but it’s not mandatory.” She has made it optional for county employees.
“What we’ve said is that employees that are comfortable or want to wear a mask, it’s voluntary for them,” said Gilley. “We’re not mandating it, but it is a voluntary option.”
When questioned further by the commissioner, she said that masks are mandatory for EMS, firefighters and ECAT
“We’ve provided them to folks for almost a month,” she said. “Then, our maintenance employees have also been wearing them.”
Bergosh brought up the county jail later during the session. He said, “One of the things I’ve been concerned about, from the county’s perspective, Janice, is our jail. We haven’t really had any problems over there with respect to COVID. Isn’t that right Janice?”
“We have not,” she replied. “It has not been reported to us at this time. I would also mention that those employees do have protective gear as well.”
Note: Inweekly would have had half a dozen follow-up questions to get more clarification from the county administrator, but the format protected her from any probes into her answers.
2. What is the name of the Assistant Living Facility determined to be a “high risk for an outbreak” as reported in the 4/7 SITREP?
Bergosh set up the question before he handed it off to the Emergency Management Director Eric Gilmore.
“I noticed in yesterday’s SitRep (Situation Report) was a mention of an assisted living facility that has a couple of outbreaks,” said Bergosh. “Then, Rick wanted me to ask which one that is. Are you at liberty to say? Or, is that something that we can discuss? I’m sure the families would want to know.”
“That’s DOH’s information,” Gilmore said. “I’m not 100% sure if I can release that information.”
Bergosh followed up with: “Got you.”
The emergency management director said, “They (DOH) brought a Level 2 team in to try to mitigate the situation. They’re thinking of bringing a Level 3 team in this week.”
He continued, “ What the different levels do, I couldn’t tell you. I asked Dr. Lanza (health department director), he didn’t know either. Hopefully, we’ll find out together. As far as the facility names, I don’t know that I can release that.”
Note: If I had a loved one in an assisted living facility in Escambia County, I would be very worried. A Level 2 team was brought in without any mention to the public or media. And the EOC and health department directors don’t know what the levels mean? Again, I wasn’t allowed to ask follow-up questions.
3. When will the county administrator hold her next press conference?
This question was never asked. I followed up with Commissioner Bergosh. He texted, “She said she’d do one when there was new information above and beyond the sitrep and news releases to report.”
My reply: “With all due respect, bull$#%+.”
A tremendous amount of power has been placed in the hands of the county administrator with little experience running a county. The commissioners must insist that she hold regular press briefings during this pandemic to provide sufficient “sunshine” on her administration.
Escambia County has come too far to return to backroom deals. Unchecked power in inexperienced hands, with no public oversight, is a recipe for disaster.