JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – For the fifth consecutive day, Mayor Lenny Curry held a virtual question-and-answer session Friday to discuss Jacksonville’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Questions ranged from how the city will enforce Curry’s executive order requiring businesses to let certain employees work from home to why the city hasn’t issued a shelter-in-place order.
Below we’ve compiled a list of five questions raised during Friday’s call and the city’s responses:
How’s the city handling violations of the work-from-home order?
Curry said city staff continue to catalog complaints about employers not following the rules allowing employees to work remotely if possible. The next step? Getting code enforcement involved.
“We will evaluate these and code enforcement will soon be in contact with those that we believe to be in violation,” he said. “We’re also working on a best practices guide to assist businesses that are believed to be non-compliant.”
The executive order only applies to job duties that can be performed from home, the mayor said. He encouraged those who can’t work remotely to take steps, including washing their hands often and giving co-workers space, to keep their workplaces safe.
Why aren’t Jacksonville city officials issuing a shelter-in-place order?
Despite suggestions from citizens, the mayor said he does not believe imposing a stay-home order for the entire city would be a good call. He said similar measures have backfired elsewhere.
“Where we’ve seen these orders in other states, even in other countries, some of the behaviors are detrimental or the opposite of what the stay-at-home order is intended to do,” Curry said. “You see people in New York, you saw people go on airplanes and leaving.”
The mayor said that’s why the city is focused on emphasizing the importance of people practicing social distancing.
“This is the way forward, based on what I’ve seen and others have seen, that I believe will mitigate and stop the spread of this virus," he said.
What steps are being taken in an effort to protect city first responders?
Curry deferred this question to Fire Chief Keith Powers, who said the Jacksonville Fire-Rescue Department has precautions in place to not only avoid exposing first responders to the virus but also keeping them from bringing it back to their respective fire stations.
Powers said the fire department is classifying calls as either Level 1, 2 or 3, depending on the risk involved and amount of personal protective equipment required. In a Level 3 case, for instance, he said first responders wear a combination of masks, face shields, gloves and disposable gowns.
“That’s what the CDC recommends,” the chief said, “and that’s how we’re preventing taking it back to other people in our stations.”
How is Jacksonville doing on hospital bed capacity in case of a surge?
Hospital bed capacity in Jacksonville-area intensive care units are hovering near 35 percent, Chief Powers said. “That’s still in the range of about 100 to 150 beds,” he added.
The mayor added that the overwhelming majority of ICU beds at Jacksonville-area hospitals are occupied by people other than COVID-19 patients, so overcrowding has not become a factor.
The city is distributing supplies to hospitals as they arrive, including 54,000 pieces of personal protective equipment delivered Friday, Emergency Management Director Steven Woodard said.
“That includes gloves masks gowns and sanitizer facials and surgical masks, so we’re filling the requirements as they come in from any of those healthcare facilities,” Woodard said.
A field hospital destined for the Prime Osborn Convention Center is not yet operational.
What resources are available to Jacksonville residents and businesses?
Citing unprecedented times, Mayor Curry said the city is assembling a list of resources available to help people and businesses hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak. Those resources are posted online.
The mayor said the list of resources includes information about financial recovery for small business owners, as well as mental health resources for those struggling with the loneliness that comes with isolation.
“This is important not only for business owners, but also for employees, the works of the city, the people that work here in Jacksonville,” Curry said.
Starting Saturday, tests at the federal site in the west parking lot of TIAA Bank Field will become available to more people. While people must have respiratory symptoms, they no longer need to have a fever to be tested.
At the city and Baptist Health’s testing site at the Prime Osborn Convention Center, COVID-19 tests will now be free for Duval County residents, but a doctor’s order is still required. On the Telescope Health app, enter promo code HERE4YOU at the payment screen to receive a $0 COVID-19 pre-screening. Get the app at the Apple Store or Google Play.
1. TESTING UPDATE: Starting tomorrow at the federal Lot J #COVID19 testing location, patients will no longer need to have a fever of 99.6 or higher. However, you must still be exhibiting respiratory symptoms. These include a dry cough and difficulty breathing. pic.twitter.com/DUxbDw8qGH— City of Jacksonville (COJ) (@CityofJax) March 27, 2020
To view the up-to-date list of resources, visit the city’s website.