JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Mayor Lenny Curry announced Monday he had signed an executive order prohibiting all hotels, motels and other commercial lodging establishments from accepting or extending reservations for any person other than essential lodgers.
The order goes into effect at 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 31.
During a news conference Monday afternoon, Curry said those deemed essential are health care professionals, first responders, National Guard members, law enforcement, state or federal government employees, airline crew members, patients, patients’ families, journalists, others responding to COVID-19, displaced residents or visitors, persons unable to return to their home due to COVID-19′s impact on travel, persons who must vacate their home due to exigent circumstances, persons utilizing hotels as transitional living arrangements, persons sheltering hotels due to domestic violence, hotel employees, service providers, contractors and individuals who for any reason are temporarily unable to reside in their home.
Curry said he was not going to let hotels to fill up with people who may be bringing the coronavirus from other locations.
“Unfortunately, some cities have not been as proactive or as vigilant in enforcing the CDC’s guidance on proper social distancing and nonessential travel as Duval County has. Numerous people have congregated in the state for spring break, cruises and other personal travel," Curry said. "This measure is necessary to protect the residents of our city, and ensure lodging is available for people on the frontline and those who are in need.”
Joan Moore, the owner of St. Johns House bed and breakfast, told News4Jax she was not surprised by the executive order. She also said the business was already taking a hit because of the virus, such as her bread and breakfast being closed this month and there being multiple cancellations. She said she would normally be getting ready for the peak months of April and May, but now bed and breakfast may be closed until November.
“It’s inevitable that it’s going to happen to us. It hurts. It’s not fun and I’m not used to having spare time to go do thing. Usually, I’m pretty regulated and tied to the house. Now, I have this time and no place to go," Moore said. “It’s tough, but you know what, it makes sense. I’m glad that people are taking it seriously. I wish it didn’t happen, but that’s a reality."
But Moore still has questions about how the executive order will work.
“I don’t know how I would. I guess just ask people if they’re in the medical profession so it’s OK to accept them or take their word for it. It’ll be interesting to see how that works,” she said.
Curry said his team will be working will the hotels in the city to help them implement the executive order as smoothly as possible. He also recognized the financial strains that the order will put on those businesses.
“We’re looking at rolling out, possibly tomorrow or the next day, some sort of relief package for small businesses. And we’re going to have to continue to evaluate how other businesses are impacted by this COVID-19 crisis at this time,” the mayor said. “But what I will tell you is there’s no scenario where I want or would be supportive of people fleeing hot spots in other counties and coming to our hotels and our rentals and potentially carrying COVID-19 into Jacksonville and Duval County. So I didn’t I don’t take this decision lightly, but it’s one that I felt had to be made given what we’re seeing around the country around the state.”
The mayor also maintained imposing shutdown order would not work because there aren’t the resources to make sure 1 million people stay home. But he said his staff was looking at the shutdown orders imposed in four south Florida counties, to see their relevance, in case one is eventually needed here.
Curry said Code Enforcement inspectors are engaging with businesses that do not comply with his order on working from home and social distancing.
News4Jax reached out to some major hotels in the area for comment but had not heard back as of Monday afternoon.