Wearing a mask in public indoor spaces is still required in the city of Pensacola after the City Council on Thursday unanimously rejected Mayor Grover Robinson's proposal to end the mask mandate.
Robinson put forward a proposal to repeal an emergency ordinance that mandated wearing a mask in public indoor spaces in the city.
The mayor argued that with the daily hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients below 50, it was time to repeal the ordinance.
He said he would bring the mandate back if the number of cases increased again and said it was akin to a hurricane warning.
"At this time, it's like giving a mandate on a sunny day," Robinson said.
He said he was worried that if cases increase again, the city would have no tools left to encourage the public to practice social distancing and wear masks.
"It's a question of management," Robinson said. "It's not a question of masks. The mask certainly works."
Masks off?: Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson says it's time to repeal COVID-19 mask ordinance
Pensacola has been under a mask mandate since late June when Robinson issued an emergency order requiring masks to be worn in indoor public spaces. The City Council later passed its own emergency ordinance that added fines for violating the order.
Robinson publicly proposed repealing the mask ordinance during his weekly press conference Monday. Since then, Escambia County has seen 11 new COVID-19 deaths and 99 new confirmed cases for a total of 228 deaths and 12,142 cases since the start of the pandemic, according to the Florida Department of Health.
Many council members were worried that repealing the ordinance in the wake of Hurricane Sally would be the wrong move.
Councilwoman Sherri Myers said she had received an overwhelming response from residents and business owners who wanted to keep the mask ordinance in place.
"When you have this much support for this mandatory mask ordinance, why in the world would you change?" Myers said. "It was hard enough to get people to do it."
Councilman Jared Moore said he understood Robinson's argument but said the variable that's changed is Hurricane Sally.
Moore said thousands of volunteers, who he called heroes, have come into the community to help it recover from the hurricane, but they may have also brought active cases of the virus with them.
"In two weeks or a month, it might be a more comfortable thing to consider," Moore said.
Jim Little can be reached at email@example.com and 850-208-9827.
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