Virtual Presser Notes: Quarantine Cheese Grits

by Jeremy Morrison, Inweekly

With Mayor Grover Robinson currently quarantining himself, the regular Monday morning press conference was conducted virtually this week.

“Welcome to a new thing we’re trying,” Mayor Robinson said.

The mayor sat behind his screen at home, with reporters fielding their questions online via Public Information Officer Kaycee Largarde.

“I know the question everyone is asking, and I did told my staff earlier, I am wearing pants,” Robinson joked, before standing up to reveal salmon slacks.

Robinson recently tested negative for the COVID-19 coronavirus, but is self-quarantining because his son — currently isolated in an upstairs bedroom — has tested positive. The mayor said his son had a rough weekend, but was doing pretty good.

“He is doing fine. Recovering. He’s young, so he should be fine,” Robinson said.

One of the questions put to the mayor this week concerned the speed with which his COVID-19 test results were returned. One of the issues with testing has been the slow rate of return for results.

“It can be done as quick as an hour,” Robinson said.

The mayor explained that Ascension Sacred Heart is capable of processing around 50 to 60 tests each day, but that priority is given to PUIs, or persons of interest that the hospital is monitoring. However, priority is also given to first responders, such as police, and the mayor, who is required to publicly interact in his official capacity, falls into that category.

“I didn’t’ want to be contaminating anybody and not know it,” Robinson said, later adding that he did not know of anyone he was in contact with who had sought a test.

Though he did not specify Monday how long he would maintain a virtual presence, the mayor did say that he — as well as a good chunk of city operations — would operate in a remote or reduced fashion.

“I look forward to the day when we can all be together, we can be face to face, but until then this is probably the smartest way for us to do it,” Robinson said.

No Capacity Issues

Relaying recent discussions with local hospital officials, Mayor Robinson said Monday that there are currently no capacity concerns at area healthcare institutions despite a slight increase in coronavirus-related hospitalizations.

“They’re still not anywhere close to their entire capacity,” Robinson said.

If capacity issues should arise going forward, the mayor said, operations could expand to the Navy hospital, or the field house at the University of West Florida. If need be, he said, the city would also make properties available.

“Certainly we have facilities we would open up to them,” he said.

Parks Open, Playgrounds and Courts Closed

The city is continuing to leave its parks open to the public. Playgrounds have been off limits for about a week, though, and this week tennis courts are shutting down.

“We’ve also removed basketball goals from city parks in an effort to prevent large gatherings,” Mayor Robinson said.

Despite increased measures to discourage group gathering in the parks, the mayor explained, the city is leaving them otherwise open in recognition of the need for people to exercise. He suggested walking, which he and his wife did this past weekend.

“You can walk in the park and manage a safe distance,” he said.

Talking Trash

The city had another record week in its sanitation department. While it previously set a curbside waste haul record, it’s now shattering previous yard-waste hauls. The department has increased its yard waste collections from 35 tons each day to more than 100 tons a day.

“That’s a 185 percent increase,” Mayor Robinson said, noting how a home-bound public has turned to yard work.

Because of this dramatic uptick in yard debris, the city is about a week behind on making its scheduled pick-ups. The mayor implored patience.

“We’re working on it,” Robinson said. “It’s Monday, and we’re just cleaning up last week’s Wednesday,”

Where Two or More Are (Virtually) Gathered

With Palm Sunday having just passed and Easter on its way, Mayor Robinson implored area churches to worship without gathering in person.

“While they are not prevented in the state of Florida from meeting, we’ve asked that in the city of Pensacola for all of our houses of worship to find a way to provide a service in some sort of virtual setting,” the mayor said.

Robinson said that he attended his own church online this past Sunday, and noted the upside of such circumstances.

“There are some benefits. I was on time, we usually have a problem being on time, but I was on time yesterday since we were at our house,” he said. “And during the sermon I was able to eat cheese grits. So, again, there are some benefits.”