Three summers ago, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry endorsed Ron DeSantis for Governor, calling DeSantis a “brother from a different mother.”
This summer, Curry and DeSantis are riding together again, with brotherhood in the air amid the COVID-19 crisis.
After a week in which DeSantis documented two calls with Curry on his public calendar, Curry was the only Mayor on a Zoom briefing with DeSantis and hospital officials ahead of a local briefing at noon.
Curry has held to a “no mandate” position, saying that vaccinations and voluntary face coverings are the way to go. Even as the school district approved a legally questionable “opt-out” variant on the Governor’s prohibition on mask mandates, Curry baited people on Twitter Tuesday night.
“Did cities/counties that had mask mandates last year have lower COVID hospitalization admissions than those without?” he mused.
During the roundtable, Curry assessed the “lay of the land” at DeSantis’ behest.
“Thanks for your leadership on this issue over the last year and a half,” Curry said, before returning to the vax-centric talking points.
“99% of those COVID patients are unvaccinated … the solution is to get vaccinated,” Curry said.
Curry also opined on the importance of monoclonal antibody treatment, again at DeSantis’ bidding.
“I don’t think people are very much aware of it,” Curry said, which is likely the case in Jacksonville.
“To your point, I think messaging would be helpful,” Curry said, noting his staff was learning from the roundtable even as the Mayor participated.
DeSantis vowed to work on expanding that messaging.
When asked if he “needed anything in Northeast Florida,” Curry just urged DeSantis to “continue the messaging” about vaccinations.
Ideologically aligned, Curry got some statewide face time and allowed DeSantis to demonstrate he has not been as hands off on the Jacksonville component of the coronavirus crisis as some might think.
From there, the Mayor went to the local briefing, where the messaging was on the same track.
Curry noted the “strains on the health care systems” was due to the “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” borrowing a phrase from President Joe Biden in the local briefing.
“This isn’t about bullying people … shaming people,” Curry clarified a bit later.
Curry’s briefing drew questions from national reporters, including from The New York Times, a measure of how Duval County faces acute pressures, as demonstrated by the most recent “rolling average” statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For the week ending Aug. 2, more than 53% of ICU berths and one in three hospital beds were occupied by COVID-19 patients. Hospital admissions for COVID-19 accounted for more than 30% of all admissions, up 47% week over week.
There was some good news in those figures. The rolling average positive testing rate of 25% was down slightly from the rolling averages of previous days.
Through surge and trough alike, Jacksonville and its Republican Mayor have been a refuge for this Governor in the pandemic. On this day, more validation of DeSantis’ approach was provided to a state audience overtly, then to a local audience through demonstration.
In the local briefing, Curry said “I don’t see politics in play” when it comes to virus response, returning to familiar talking points about how his mask mandate was pre-vaccine.
“I don’t have plans to put another mandate in Jacksonville,” Curry said.
The Mayor managed to defend the mask mandate with “opt out” arrived at by the school district, saying it allowed “choice,” a position that seems to be one the Governor’s Office can live with also.
As far as his own kids’ masking goes, his family hasn’t “sat around the table and had that discussion.”