Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson said he will ask the City Council to rescind the city’s mask mandate as daily COVID-19 hospitalizations have fallen to 50 people, marking the first time hospitalizations have been that low since June.

On Monday, Robinson held his first weekly press conference since Hurricane Sally made landfall last week. 

“We will be asking council to continue the state of emergency (on COVID-19),” Robinson said. “But we will be asking them to lift the mandate on the mask.”

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.

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Robinson said Monday that the local hospitalization numbers were finally low enough to justify rescinding the ordinance.

“We haven’t been this low since we didn’t have a mask mandate,” Robinson said. “There’s no doubt that the mask work in practice.”

Robinson compared having a mask mandate in place when the COVID-19 numbers were high to being under a hurricane warning when a storm is approaching from the Gulf of Mexico.

“When we issue and we come on and tell you there’s a warning, that’s when we expect you to act,” Robinson said. “I think sometimes when you wear on people with a continued act, they sometimes get less responsive in following it.”

Escambia County has recorded 217 deaths from COVID-19 and 12,043 positive cases as of Monday, according to the Florida Department of Health. New cases have remained low over the last week, but state-run testing sites have been closed since Hurricane Sally.

Marie Mott, director of the health department in Escambia County, said Saturday that testing sites would reopen Tuesday.

Robinson said hospital leaders have said that when daily hospitalizations for COVID-19 fall below 50 patients, that should be the benchmark for when the city can start easing current measures like the mask ordinance.

“My conversations with all three hospitals are 50 is a very manageable number,” Robinson said. “And they’ve learned how to deal with this better.”

Robinson said the although the mask mandate will be lifted, masks will still be required in city buildings.

The City Council will hold an emergency meeting Monday on extending a state of emergency for Hurricane Sally and will meet twice again this week for a regular meeting and a budget meeting.

The public is still not allowed to attend the meetings in person because of COVID-19.

Now with Hurricane Sally, many people are without reliable internet service for the time being.

Robinson said the decision on whether to allow the public inside for meetings is up to Council President Jewel Cannada-Wynn, but he believes it’s time for that measure to be repealed.

“I think we should have people in,” Robinson said. “Everybody’s going to be in a mask and you’re going to be spaced.”

Jim Little can be reached at jwlittle@pnj.com and 850-208-9827.

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