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Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry takes off his mask at a press conference with Gov. Ron DeSantis, May 2020.

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Republican National Convention host city Jacksonville plans bar crackdown amidst COVID-19 surge

Liquor licenses could be at risk.

After another record day for positive tests and positive testing rates in the city where the Republican National Convention will be held, the Mayor addressed media Wednesday about next steps.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry addressed the new statistics, including 216 positive tests recorded Tuesday and a positivity rate approaching 13%.

While below the 15.91% state positive testing rate for the same 24 hour period, Jacksonville previously had branded as a success story in “flattening the curve” through largely voluntary measures.

However, recent weeks have given the lie to that narrative, which included Gov. Ron DeSantis defending, at great length and volume, Jacksonville’s decision to relax restrictions by reopening beaches this Spring.

Curry addressed the rising numbers, mirroring the Governor’s talking points that cases today aren’t as severe as they were in March, with the average age of COVID diagnoses now at 31 years old.

The Mayor noted that “restaurants, bars, and pubs” can have 50% occupancy along with other gathering spots, while retail stores can be full-capacity with continued “social distancing and protocols.”

A city task force comprised of an undetermined number of code enforcement professionals, going forward, will report non-compliant businesses to the state DBPR, and bar licenses could be revoked.

“If it’s Dance Party USA and people are hanging from the rafters, we’re going to have to take action,” Curry said, quoting the Governor.

Those investigators will be out “at any point in time,” Curry said.

“Right now, one could walk into your restaurant or bar and check occupancies,” the Mayor warned rogue brewmeisters and eatieries alike.

Will these restrictions be imposed during the RNC? Who knows.

“We are still two months out from that event,” Curry said, saying that “in the meantime, we have to focus on what’s happening in the city and what we can control.”

“Let’s do what we can today … and we’ll continue to monitor the situation,” Curry said.

He continued, chastizing people for “going into a bar without a mask on” and then having the temerity to “complain” about the Convention, which two polls have said Duval County voters do not want.

The Mayor brought in Dr. Leon Haley of UF Health to burnish his narrative, saying the hospital has “30 patients under investigation …. 7 in the ICU,” a number doubling week over week.

“There were some assumptions that it would go away because it’s summertime … we just aren’t seeing it,” Haley said.

When asked by a reporter with the Florida Times-Union about hospitalizations, Curry acknowledged an “uptick in certain hospitals,” but added “ICUs are not full of COVID-19 patients.”

Curry, a strong Mayor by city charter, said he could not compel hospitals to release detailed data that would give real insight into capacity beyond anecdotal assurances.

Many of those sick are in the service industry, at the virus indicators being targeted.

Positive tests will be down in the coming days, potentially, with the city testing site at Lot J down due to wind damage to tents.

But is the damage already done?

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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