The novel coronavirus continues its dread march through the corridors of Jacksonville City Hall, with legislative staff wrestling with virus exposure amid calls for mitigation from Council members.
At least one City Council staffer tested positive, and more are in quarantine during this Thanksgiving week.
The revelations came in a series of pre-Thanksgiving emails obtained Wednesday by Florida Politics, missives detailing concerns from City Council members about virus exposure in the workplace.
Councilman Aaron Bowman, who had previously expressed concerns about virus precautions in the wake of a second Councilman this year testing positive, noted in an email Wednesday that nearly two weeks had elapsed and the only changes have been an uptick in support staff waylaid by the coronavirus.
Bowman’s seemingly rhetorical question: “At what point did we stop caring for the welfare of our team?”
“Twelve days ago I sent an email to both of you that has yet to be answered and unfortunately we have now put more people at risk due to your inaction … We now have another ECA [Executive Council Assistant] that is COVID positive and several other ECAs are now in quarantine during the Thanksgiving holidays. I am hopeful that recoveries are quick and steps are taken to prevent more people from exposure. I do not understand why protecting our staff is being taken so lightly,” Bowman wrote to Council President Tommy Hazouri and Council Director Dr. Cheryl Brown.
Bowman urged screening stations at elevators, staff monitoring to ensure that those entering Council offices were screened, and protective barriers in front of the desks of the council staffers.
Councilman Matt Carlucci, who has been at odds with Bowman increasingly of late, urged his fellow Republican to “give it a rest for the holidays.”
Bowman responded in high dudgeon.
“What are you going to tell the others that are on quarantine — we really aren’t too worried about this and your safety because I want to have time with my family? This is not a voluntary quarantine, this is a directed quarantine. What are you going to say if any of those people turn positive and have a major health impact — that we took a rest because of the holidays?”
The intracouncil back and forth continued sniping from the City Council floor the night before, when Carlucci was frustrated in his attempt to attach amendments to a resolution urging the Downtown Investment Authority to look over the “Lot J” proposal, a stadium improvement scheme involving the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Mayor’s Office, and Cordish Companies.
Bowman has found himself at odds with Hazouri increasingly of late, claiming in a public forum that Hazouri was “unprepared” for the job of Council President. Additionally, Hazouri finds himself on the outs with Mayor Lenny Curry.
While some have suggested there is appetite to remove Hazouri from the Presidency, thus far no one has been willing to say that on record.