Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry addressed media Tuesday regarding coronavirus in Duval County and introduced emergency legislation.
Curry previewed legislation, including a bill allowing retired first responders to come back to active service during this crisis, which mirrors an Executive Order calling for the same at the state level.
The bill should move quickly through the Jacksonville City Council, which meets Tuesday evening.
The legislation will allow recent retirees to supplement the load for currently active police and fire, with job offers contingent on passing physicals.
Curry has enjoyed a political bounce from crisis management, moving aggressively to secure one of three federal testing sites in the state (which the state now runs), and instituting a small-business loan program that has already disbursed $3 million, with $20 million more being processed.
Despite these moves, the city faces a “long hard road” ahead, with suicide attempts and drug overdoses and murders all spiking during the coronavirus lockdown.
To that end, Curry offered updates, including clarifying that the current “state of emergency” is simply a designation allowing locals to draw down state and federal money for emergency response cost overages.
The extension allows continued access to the funds beyond the 30-day interval, and does not mean the “safer at home” order is expanded.
“I want people back to work, to their routines as much as anybody,” Curry said. “We have to do it in a way that is safe.”
“Here in Duval County, it appears we may have flattened the curve,” Curry said, lauding people for “taking this seriously.”
As of Tuesday morning, Duval County had 715 confirmed positive tests, with 63 having been hospitalized at some point, and 13 deaths.
Beyond the health concerns, questions about the economy were posed also.
“We understand the financial strain that is coming,” Curry said, forecasting “difficult budgets, difficult choices.”
Curry noted that the city is not tapping into reserves yet, even as he didn’t offer specifics about the March decline in sales tax collections.
The goal is to get people back to work, Curry said.
Regarding the local unemployed, Curry said the Governor is working to “get people the money they need.”
“This Governor is committed to getting the system operating the way it [should],” Curry said.
Though Curry, a former chair of the Republican Party of Florida, has tended toward small-government Republican rhetoric throughout his career, the coronavirus crisis has compelled Curry to embrace a more activist version of government.
The approach contrasts with that just to the south.
In St. Johns County, the county administrator talks of having seen infection “numbers begin to flatline,” and the main concern of locals at Tuesday’s County Commission meeting seemed to be reopening the beaches.