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News about coronavirus in Florida and around the world is constantly emerging. It's hard to stay on top of it all but Health News Florida can help. Our responsibility is to keep you informed, and to help discern what’s important for your family as you make what could be life-saving decisions.

Jacksonville Begins Monitoring Businesses, Enforcing Capacity Restrictions

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry

Mayor Lenny Curry says, effective immediately, city code enforcement will be monitoring businesses throughout Jacksonville to make sure state ordered capacity guidelines are being followed.

Non-compliance could result in a business having its alcohol or food license revoked.

“We’re not looking to create headaches for businesses doing the right thing. But,” Mayor Curry said during a press conference Wednesday afternoon, “if it’s dance party USA and people are hanging from the rafters, we’re going to have to take action.”

Under current restrictions, restaurants, bars, and pubs are limited to 50% indoor capacity with unlimited seating outdoors with at least six feet of social distancing. Entertainment venues like movie theaters, bowling alleys, music venues, auditoriums, and arcades can operate at 50% capacity with appropriate social distancing and sanitation. Meanwhile, retail stores, gyms, and fitness centers can operate at 100% capacity with appropriate social distancing and sanitation protocols.

Mayor Curry said the city has created a task force that will identify businesses in violation of these restrictions and report them to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. 

“It is the responsibility of the bar owner to make sure that they're not over the 50% capacity and people aren't in there, shoulder to shoulder,” he said.

The decision comes as the number of positive coronavirus cases in Jacksonville continues to rise.

“Our numbers have doubled over the last week, in terms of our actual admissions, and we probably have about 30 patients that are currently under investigation, which means that we suspect they may or may not have it [COVID-19],” Dr. Leon Haley, CEO of UF Health Jacksonville, said during Wednesday’s press conference. “We do have seven patients in our ICU right now, which is a significant increase over last week. The other thing that we have seen is a demographic change, so the patient population does tend to be a little bit younger than we were seeing.”

Dr. Haley went on to say that mask wearing, social distancing, and testing are all still critical, which are points that Mayor Curry agrees with.

“If a business chooses to say you have to have a mask on to come in, they are a private business and they can do that and they can choose not to serve somebody,” he said.

When asked about the Republican National Convention coming to Jacksonville in August, Mayor Curry said it’s still too early to say with any certainty what restrictions will be in place for the event.

“We’ll take a detailed look at where we are, where we stand, in the next few weeks and decide what the proper protocols are to make sure people are safe. But in the meantime, right now we need to focus on what’s happening in our city and what we can control,” he said.

Curry went on to say that residents need to practice personal responsibility instead of complaining.

“Going to a bar packed with people without a mask on and talking about what could happen in August is not the right personal decision,” he said.

Related:  Local, State, And National Coronavirus Coverage

“The shutdown, the safer at home orders, were necessary at the time, but they were incredibly painful for a lot of people,” Curry said when asked if he’d consider reinstating stricter regulations to fight rising numbers of positive COVID-19 cases. “We want people to be able to go to work. We want people to be able to live their lives. They just have to behave responsibly.”

He also reiterated that he has no intention of instating a mask wearing requirement.

“I encourage it, the governor has encouraged it, but I’ve heard other cities around the state that have said they mandate it, and they’ve been asked, ‘How are you going to enforce it?’ And they’ve said, ‘We can’t.’ Therefore, we won’t,” Curry explained. “We’re not going to put additional mandates on people that can’t be enforced.”

Many local governments have already issued local orders requiring people to wear face masks in public places, including in the Florida Keys, Miami Beach, Tampa, and all of Orange County.

Similar to Jacksonville Mayor Curry’s announcement Wednesday regarding capacity limits,  Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said Friday that local police and code enforcement officers would be keeping an eye on businesses and public spaces to make sure people are following social distancing guidelines and the county’s mask requirement, which has been in place since April.

Brendan Rivers can be reached at brivers@wjct.org, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.

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