PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — The day before Panama City Beach officials told the public that the City was not cancelling upcoming events City Manager Drew Whitman sent out several emails telling event organizers that he was “issuing a denial or conditional denial” to five events.
News 13 was the first to report that the events were being shut down on Saturday. News 13 sent a text to Panama City Beach Spokeswoman Debbie Ward asking whether or not she could confirm if “all events on the beach have been cancelled for the rest of the year.”
Ward responded by stating, “That’s not true.”
She added that the city continued, “to monitor the COVID-19 cases in our area and we are especially concerned about ICU capacity in our hospitals.”
The original statement went on to say that city leaders were monitoring their own events and “as events come up we will look at ICU capacity and make decisions on a case by case basis.”
She added that, “Nothing has been cancelled at this point” and that COVID rates change daily.
However, the day before that statement was sent to the media, Whitman sent an entirely different answer to event organizers. In emails to those organizers, he stated he was issuing a conditional denial to the events because of a 2020 resolution that was passed by the City Council in May.
Resolution 20-114 states special events can only go forward if there is, “Evidence that Bay County hospital ICU capacity is adequate to treat all patients without crisis/triage as measured by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration and determined by the Florida Department of Health.”
Those emails were sent to the organizers of the Panama City Food Truck Fest, Octoberfest, Gulf Coast Jam, Creatures of the Night, and the International Beach Games.
In his email to Rendy Lovelady, the executive producer of Gulf Coast Jam, Whitman noted that his denial was a “drastic change.”
“With the rate of the ICU capacity, I cannot risk the chance of something happening at your event or in our area where necessary beds may be needed for our citizens,” Whitman wrote. “I know this is a drastic change from our conversation a week ago, but I did not foresee the high demand for our local ICU capacity, or the strain COVID-19 has put on our medical staff and community.”
News 13 requested these emails over the weekend and received them Monday afternoon. A few hours before the emails were sent to us city officials announced that they had cancelled the remaining Summer Concert Series and were conditionally denying pending special event permits.