JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Mayor Lenny Curry imposed new limits this week in Jacksonville in hopes of curbing the spread of coronavirus.
In a news conference on Thursday, Curry said if the community doesn’t take those restrictions seriously, he isn’t afraid to impose a curfew.
“If we don’t flatten the curve. Which we are taking actions to flatten the curve right now. We could have a curfew," Curry said. "We could have a full shut down. I don’t want that to happen, but this is about our behaviors right now -- our behaviors to flatten the curve. I will say the antidotes, evidence that I see -- at least in buildings and social places -- people seem to be listening to us and taking it seriously.”
Shay Hill says she and her children are taking social distancing seriously and feel a curfew is a good idea.
“He’s trying to protect the population and the people so this thing won’t spread,” Hill said.
Curry imposed new limits on the number of people allowed inside certain Jacksonville businesses at any one time, including restaurants and bars, on Monday.
Citing new federal guidelines discouraging large-scale public gatherings, the mayor issued an order banning establishments from having more than 50 customers inside at once until further notice. He also banned the sale of alcohol between the hours of midnight and 8 a.m.
The rules apply to buildings that tend to be social settings such as restaurants, bars, shopping malls and houses of worship. But there are many exceptions to the rules for businesses like grocery stores and manufacturing plants.
Gov. Ron DeSantis later ordered all bars and nightclubs to close for 30 days, beginning at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
“I’ve heard and seen lots of frustrations from many parts of the community. I understand the anxieties that many citizens are feeling, but I want the people of Jacksonville to understand this is not an overreaction," Curry said at a City Hall news conference. “These are important actions advised by medical professionals throughout the country to slow the spread of this disease.”
Mayor Lenny Curry announces new limit on all restaurants and bars in Jacksonville until further notice. No more than 50 people permitted in an establishment, following CDC recommendations. Alcohol sales are also banned from midnight to 8am.— City of Jacksonville (COJ) (@CityofJax) March 16, 2020
The mayor said everyone needs to do their part as individuals to reduce transmissions of the virus so that Jacksonville hospitals aren’t overwhelmed with surges of patients they aren’t equipped to handle. He tweeted Monday night it’s important that people who think they need to be tested don’t show up an emergency room and, instead, call their doctor or the Department of Health first.
Monday’s order came a day after Curry hinted in a series of social media posts that he might take official action to mandate “social distancing,” the widely recommended practice of avoiding close contact with others if people did not take steps to do so on their own.
“If folks don’t act accordingly, I will mandate social distancing,” the mayor tweeted Sunday.
2 if folks don’t act accordingly, I will mandate social distancing.— Lenny Curry (@lennycurry) March 16, 2020
It also comes on the heels of new recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which called for the cancellation of events involving 50 or more people for at least the next eight weeks.
“Bars and restaurants filled to capacity may be good for the bottom line in the short run but they are sending the wrong message about this crisis,” Curry said. “We know these decisions will cause economic difficulty for many in our community we are working with state and federal partners to find a solution to those impacted.”
The mayor has been an outspoken advocate for social distancing as new cases of coronavirus have cropped up in recent days in Florida, including in Jacksonville, which is now home to four confirmed cases. One is an 83-year-old man, while three others are men of unspecified ages.
Last week,, Curry canceled all upcoming events scheduled at city-owned venues — from TIAA Bank Field to VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena to the Times-Union Center for Performing Arts — in a bid to reduce the number of places where crowds gather and the virus could spread.
On Thursday, Curry announced a testing site would open Friday at the Prime Osborn Convention Center.