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Curry Confident Mask Mandate Is Legal; Mayor In Self-Quarantine After COVID-19 Exposure

Mayor Lenny Curry has been a proponent for mask-wearing, but didn't make it mandatory throughout the county until a mandate was released on June 29th.
Mayor Lenny Curry has been a proponent for mask-wearing, but didn't make it mandatory throughout the county until a mandate was released on June 29th.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said he believes his countywide mandate is not government overreach or illegal. 

“[Executive orders], they’re done in consultation with our Office of General Counsel, again, with great thought and care, so I’m confident that it was done appropriately,” Curry said.

Curry said that Tuesday morning through a virtual media conference, a day after Florida House Rep. Anthony Sabatini (R-Lake County) filed a lawsuit against the city and held a “Freedom Rally” outside the Duval County Courthouse. 

After consulting with local health leaders, Curry said last week he felt like it was the right time to enact the mandate. 

“There are very few levers that we can utilize in government to slow the spread, and the easiest lever is just wear a mask. So let's just let's just be smart,” Curry said. 

According to the order, there isn’t any language about enforcement, but Curry said there are potential consequences for people who don’t comply.

“The mask mandate is enforceable, but as I've said before, we don't we don't want to be operating in a police state around here, running around, grabbing people. I'm told that most people these days in stores, since we issued the mandate, are wearing masks,” Curry said.

Curry virtually attended the media conference from his own home. He found out he and his family were in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

“I have been tested and I am negative,” Curry said. “However, my family and I are self- quarantining at home, even though I'm negative. We're doing this in accordance with CDC guidance and as a precaution for our friends, family and neighbors.”

Curry also gave details on the new testing sites throughout Arlington, the Northside and the Westside that will open on Wednesday, July 8. More information on the locations and requirements can be found here.  

The testing site at Lot J will stay open until July 15, but then its operations will move to Regency Square Mall, where the site will go indoors so it can remain open during bad weather days. 

The positivity rate for people testing in Duval County stands at 8.1%, according to Curry. He also noted that there are 68 people in the county in ICU care that have COVID-19. 

“We have community spread right now. That is happening,” Curry said. “And clearly, data and evidence shows if you shut things down, you stop the spread because people won't be interacting. But economic pain comes with that.”

On Monday, the Florida Department of Education sent out a mandate requiring all schools must reopen in the fall. Curry said he agrees.

“Both of my daughters are in public schools,” Curry said.  “I think that I want them back in school. I want it to be done in a safe and responsible way, but I think it's important that our young people be back in a learning environment and be able to socially interact with their friends while learning.”

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said their department has 81 “sworn personnel” in quarantine, and 114 corrections officers in quarantine. Of those two groups, 57 have tested positive. There are 189 COVID-19 positive inmates, and 1,038 inmates who are in quarantine. 

For Jacksonville Fire and Rescue, Chief Keith Powers said there are 187 firefighters in quarantine, with 51 that have tested positive. 

Regarding the health risks the city could see regarding hosting the Republican National Convention in August, Curry continued to lean on the fact that there’s still plenty of time before it begins.

“The convention is many, many weeks away in late August, and we are acting appropriately right now and we’ll act appropriately at that time,” Curry said. “We are currently under a statewide executive order by the Governor. Facilities cannot participate in anything over 50% capacity. That's where we are right now. And so we're just going to continue to evaluate as we move towards that date.”

On Tuesday’s First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross, City Council President Tommy Hazouri said there hasn’t been communication between the RNC Host Committee and the council.

“As it relates to a private group hosting a private event for a private entity, there's just not a whole lot of city council involvement there,” said city Chief of Staff Jordan Elsbury.

Elsbury said if city council members have questions, they can contact him or other city officials.

Sky Lebron can be reached at slebron@wjct.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @SkylerLebron.

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