Over 48 hours after the order was first broached in the host city for the 2020 Republican National Convention, Mayor Lenny Curry briefed the City Council Wednesday afternoon.
With just 15% of ICU beds open in Duval County, and a 4% capacity at the city’s only safety-net hospital, the situation compelled action.
Curry expressed confidence in hospital capacity, then touched on the mask order before jumping off the call, noting his “long record in this city of encouraging people to wear their masks, and now it’s mandatory.”
Staff also addressed the mask order, experiencing some push back from certain members of the Council. One in particular offered a challenge to conventional wisdom on fighting the coronavirus.
After Chief Administrative Officer Brian Hughes said there was “benefit to wearing a mask,” Republican Council member Danny Becton peppered Hughes with questions about how many people were “sick” with COVID-19 and how many had died in the last 30 days from the coronavirus.
“This is huge government overreach … for 99% of our population … doing the smart things and being illness free like we do, 365 days a year. I’m just not on the bandwagon,” Becton said.
“When I do talk to constituents out there … as we single out this illness, a lot of people have concerns how this may relate to illness that may have comparable numbers.
“We talk about the flu. How come we don’t hear comparisons,” Becton said, noting “fractions of a percent” differences between the two.
Becton bemoaned the health care professionals, who “haven’t had forecasts that have been correct or close to correct,” continuing to wonder what good wearing a mask would be for him.
“To me, it’s common sense that a mask can actually hurt you,” Becton said. “99.something% of the people walking around are actually being hurt by wearing a mask.”
Hughes went on to defend the mask order, noting that when rolling averages of positive tests reached 6%, action was mandated.
Other Council members backed the order, but for Becton, who lost the race for the City Council Presidency by a 16-3 vote a few weeks back, there seemed to be incentive to take a contrarian view.
Council President Tommy Hazouri, a Democrat, said the next 30 days would tell the tale, including for the health restrictions potentially imposed on the Republican National Convention.