Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry followed Gov. Ron DeSantis‘s lead in announcing plans to reopen Duval County.
Curry’s remarks, delayed from Wednesday to accommodate DeSantis’ announcement, showed little daylight from the Tallahassee position.
Mutual admiration between the two Republicans has been in full flower, with each praising the other repeatedly on live microphones. The only real difference: Whereas DeSantis has been almost Nixonian in his baiting of the press, Curry has stroked local media, thanking them for balanced coverage of once-controversial phenomena like reopening beaches.
Some familiar with administration thinking privately expressed frustration at times with communication from the Governor’s Office during this process. However, those frustrations should be seen in the context of Jacksonville being prioritized with testing sites and other state help that ultimately allowed Duval to flatten the curve to a degree that would be the envy of most major metro areas on the Eastern Seaboard.
Stylistic differences notwithstanding, DeSantis authorizing “baby steps” for the state allowed Curry to do so in Duval.
Curry lauded Jacksonville for “sacrifices and efforts to flatten the curve and avoid dire predictions” for the city. He lauded the Governor’s plan for reopening Florida, “the formal start” for reopening Jacksonville, but with a “long road ahead.”
Curry also rolled out a new drive-thru testing site.
“More than two dozen, with more to come,” Curry promised, with $35 million budgeted for those tests out of a pool of $159 million in federal coronavirus relief funds.
Curry also encouraged people to “be patient” while applying, starting tomorrow, for $40 million to be fronted to 40,000 low or middle income households that had lost more than a fifth of income due to coronavirus shutdowns.
Jacksonville moved forward with relaxing some restrictions already, with the new rules in place next week.
Beaches, currently open for seven hours a day, will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. starting May 4. Users must be “participating in recreational activities consistent with social distancing guidelines such as walking, biking, hiking, fishing, running, swimming, walking pets and surfing.”
Meanwhile, Jacksonville and the Beaches are ready to receive travelers as May 4 also sees the lifting of restrictions on lodging.
The city is ready to relax restrictions on vacation rentals, contingent on the Governor lifting a statewide temporary ban on them. However, that ban is still in effect.
Restaurants will be open with 25% capacity, Curry noted, along with retail shops on Monday.