In a sign of the times, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry held his first “virtual” news conference with more than half a dozen reporters Monday afternoon to provide the latest on how the city is responding to the coronavirus outbreak and indicated more restrictive measures may be on the way.
There are now 46 cases of COVID-19 in Duval County according to the Florida Department of Health’s Monday morning update. Curry said the continued measures to try and stem the spread of the virus may require increased efforts. Even curfews are now being discussed.
“I continue to hear about businesses and employees taking unnecessary risks. I’ve seen examples of people ignoring these [city government] warnings,” Curry said from a video stream in a City Hall office where he was seen sitting by himself at a table while reporters and other city officials were tuned in through the Zoom streaming.
Curry said he is consulting with the office of Jacksonville General Counsel to update an executive order to restrict businesses from bringing in employees who may not be necessary.
Curry said he’s working on “updating the executive order to say that if employees can perform their job at home, the executive order would require that happen.”
The measure he’s considering would also require that if any employees need to go to places of work, they must be separated from any co-workers by at least 6 feet. There would be some exemptions, Curry said, for some businesses such as grocery stores.
Curry also expressed frustration with many Jacksonville residents who continue to gather at the homes of friends or congregate in some public places such as city parks. There were several residents seen walking through Memorial Park in Jacksonville’s Riverside neighborhood Monday morning, though the park is supposed to be closed.
“This is also very, very dangerous and irresponsible,” Curry said, adding that he and Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams have already discussed cracking down on such gatherings.
“Sheriff Williams and I have been discussing a curfew,” Curry said. “The problem is enforcing a curfew right now would put an incredible strain on our law enforcement.
“So, right now, we’re not setting a curfew. But we’re asking you [residents] to do the right thing,” Curry said. “If you’re still having to go to work and you come home from work, stay in your home unless it’s essential [to leave] for groceries or supplies.”
Curry also said it may soon be out of the local government’s hands as a curfew may be instituted by state or federal authorities.
Curry’s angst comes as Duval County’s coronavirus case count continues to increase. The figure jumped to 46 confirmed cases validated by positive test results Monday, according to the Florida Department of Health. Two of those cases have resulted in the deaths of two men in their 80s.
Free testing for people of all ages got underway in a parking lot at Jacksonville’s TIAA Bank Field, the stadium where the Jacksonville Jaguars play.
Also, a field hospital is about to be erected in Jacksonville, though Curry said the location hasn’t been determined. Curry stressed the field hospital is only a preparatory measure that is being coordinated with Florida Division of Emergency Management and that the state office is setting up similar field hospitals in a few other cities.
Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Chief Keith Powers said the field hospital will have a capacity for about 250 critical intensive care unit patients and it can be expanded. But Powers said Jacksonville’s multiple permanent hospitals are more than capable of handling all patients so far.
“We’re just staging it here in town. Right now, our hospitals are not at capacity. When that determination is made by the Mayor’s office and hospital leaders that we need to get it up and running, a decision will be made to do that. Until then, equipment is just being staged here,” Powers said.