State, city leaders concerned coronavirus threat isn’t being taken seriously

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Although the Florida Department of Health is reporting that there were more than 1,200 cases of the coronavirus in the state as of Monday evening, there is still a growing concern over people not taking the spread of the virus more seriously.

The mayor of Jacksonville is taking steps to make sure everyone who can stay home. Mayor Curry tweeted Monday that at 8 a.m. Tuesday, an executive order will direct that anyone who can work from home is mandated to do so.

But during a news conference Monday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said it wasn’t clear to him that doing a shutdown of the entire state would even work, as there could be noncompliance.

“A governor is not going to start imprisoning people for just because they leave their house, so you’re going to have a lot of noncompliance,” DeSantis said. “I think you have another class of people, you know, who were just selfish. You shut down the bar, they go to a house party. You know, you have no beach, they go to a sandbar, which is technically not the beach. And so I would just say for those folks: You need to cool it."

DeSantis on Friday issued an executive order ending banning all on-site dining in Florida to prevent the spread of COVID-19, yet a News4Jax camera on Friday night recorded a large gathering of people both inside and outside 9 Ball Heaven sports grill, bar and pool hall in the Lakewood neighborhood.

When News4Jax arrived with the camera, people started running inside and began to close the shades. Despite that, one of the managers told News4Jax on Monday that they knew nothing about the executive order.

“After you guys showed up, we looked for it, but we were not notified by anybody so, we had the fire marshal come back Saturday and explain to us exactly what we were supposed to do," said manager Neil Harkness.

The manager added that the gathering was a private party that had already been paid for in advance.

But News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson said the manager’s explanation doesn’t add up.

“The fact that once you arrived and they started spreading like roaches when the light comes on lets you know they knew about it," Jefferson said. “It’s all over the news. It’s all over the internet. It’s all over everything.”

Jefferson said stopping the spread of COVID-19 means changing the attitudes of people who are acting like they simply don’t care.

“Some of them have the attitude that if they get the coronavirus, they get it. If they spread it, they just spread it. They’ve got the wrong attitude," he said.

Both DeSantis and Curry have stressed the need for people to practice social distancing. The lack of social distancing led to all Duval County Beaches being closed at 5 p.m. Friday. An hour before the closure, a News4Jax camera recorded lots of children at a Jacksonville Beach skate park who were not practicing social distancing. Some were even sharing water bottles.

Jefferson said that’s an example of why parents need to have serious conversations with their children about the virus.

“This is a pandemic that keeps on giving. And one of the reasons why it keeps on giving is because it continues to spread. Some people are not taking it seriously, mainly our young people," Jefferson said.

He added that if people don’t take the virus seriously, there could come a point when the mayor would have to consider more drastic measures such as ordering a citywide curfew.

And as the governor is again asking people to stay home. The question now is how many people will adhere to the rules.

One of the managers of the 9 Ball Heaven said that from now on, they will abide by the rules in place for as long as they are in place.

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