Jacksonville issues safer-at-home order over COVID-19

All non-essential businesses will be closed beginning on Friday

VIDEO: Mayor Lenny Curry announced he is issuing an executive order requiring Jacksonville residents to stay home unless it’s absolutely necessary to leave.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In an extraordinary move, Mayor Lenny Curry announced on Wednesday he is issuing an executive order requiring Jacksonville residents to stay home unless it’s absolutely necessary to leave.

The safer-at-home order, which mirrors similar measures in place elsewhere, goes into effect beginning at 12:01 a.m. Friday. It directs all commercial and retail businesses in the city that are not considered essential services to close until further notice.

The order does not apply to a wide range of businesses deemed essential, from banks to grocery stores.

RELATED: Which businesses are considered essential?

"This was not an easy decision to make,” Curry said during a Wednesday morning news conference. “The weight of these decisions are very, very impactful on individual lives in our city. But these decisions have to be made, these actions have to be taken to make sure that we’re taking care of the people of Jacksonville.”

The mayor noted that Jacksonville, which currently has 239 known coronavirus cases, is not among the hardest hit communities in Florida despite being the state’s largest city. He attributed the low infection rate to steps the city has already taken to reduce crowds and keep the virus from spreading.

Yet, Curry said, not everyone is doing their part.

RELATED: Gov. DeSantis issues stay-home order for Florida | Can you go to church? And other FAQs

“There’s a million people in this city,” he said. “We don’t have a million police officers, and we don’t want to have to deploy these resources and stretch them because people simply won’t socially distance. So, we’ve got to take this seriously.”

Within hours of Curry’s announcement, Gov. Ron DeSantis caved to mounting pressure and issued a statewide stay-at-home order. DeSantis was resistant to take that step in recent weeks, saying he did not think it would be a sound move, even as his counterparts in California and New York did so.

The safer-at-home order marks the latest in a series of steps the Curry administration has taken in response to the COVID-19 outbreak since declaring a local state of emergency March 13. He previously imposed limits on restaurant and bars, closed Duval County’s beaches and pushed businesses to let employees work from home.

WATCH: Mayor’s Wednesday news conference | DOCUMENT: View the mayor’s safer-at-home order

At the same time, Curry has been asking citizens to practice good hygiene and social distancing, which are widely accepted by public health experts as the best ways to prevent the coronavirus from spreading.

“While we’re confident you’ll be much safer at home in the coming weeks, I want to make it clear that this does not mean you can’t go for a walk, you can’t walk your dogs, you can’t ride your bikes — just do it responsibly,” he said. “... Let’s take care of each other. That’s only way we’re going to get rid of this thing.”

All non-essential businesses will be closed beginning on Friday

Those who violate the safer-at-home order could be arrested, Curry and Sheriff Mike Williams said Wednesday, but the hope is it doesn’t come to that. Williams said a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office task force will handle calls on suspected violations, such as block parties, to avoid diverting patrol officers from routine calls for service.

“We can issue citations and we can make arrests,” the sheriff said. “We’ve been able to gain cooperation with parties that we’ve dealt with so far and they’ve broken up voluntarily."

Essential businesses can continue to operate as usual, Curry said, but he encouraged employers to allow their workforces to contribute remotely if their duties can be done from home. These businesses include assisted-living facilities, banks, gas stations, grocery stores, hardware stores, hospitals, pharmacies, among a host of others (View the complete list).

“My work-from-home order remains in full effect,” Curry said. “And even if you are classified as an essential business, if your employees can work from home, they can perform the job duties from home, they should be doing that.”

Below is a list of the businesses the city considers essential:

  • Healthcare providers, including, but not limited to, hospitals, doctors' and dentists' offices, urgent care centers, clinics, rehabilitation facilities, physical therapists, mental health professionals, psychiatrists, therapists, and pharmacies;
  • Grocery stores, farmers' markets, farm and produce stands, supermarkets, food banks, convenience stores, and other establishments engaged in the retail sale of canned food, dry goods, fresh fruits and vegetables, pet supply, fresh meats, fish, and poultry, and any other household consumer products (such as cleaning and personal care products). This authorization includes stores that sell groceries and also sell other non-grocery products, and products necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operations of residences;
  • Food cultivation, including farming, livestock, and fishing;
  • Businesses that provide food, shelter, social services, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals;
  • Churches and houses of worship, so long as gatherings are 50 or fewer people and they maintain six feet of distance between each person;
  • Newspapers, television, radio, and other media services;
  • Gas stations; new and used automobile dealerships; and auto-supply, auto-repair, and related facilities, provided however that such businesses should ensure that customers practice the social distancing as advised by the CDC;
  • Banks and related financial institutions;
  • Hardware stores;
  • Contractors and other tradesmen, appliance repair personnel, exterminators, and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences and other structures;
  • Businesses providing mailing and shipping services, including post office boxes;
  • Private colleges, trade schools, and technical colleges, but only as needed to facilitate online or distance learning and university, college, or technical college residence halls, to the extent needed to accommodate students who cannot return to their homes;
  • Laundromats, dry cleaners, and laundry service providers;
  • Restaurants and other facilities that prepare and serve food, but subject to the limitations and requirements of Emergency Order 2020-1. Schools and other entities that typically provide free food services to students or members of the public may continue to do so on the condition that the food is provided to students or members of the public on a pick-up and takeaway basis only. Schools and other entities that provide food services under this exemption shall not permit the food to be eaten at the site where it is provided , or at any other gathering site;
  • Businesses that supply office products needed for people to work from home;
  • Businesses that supply other essential businesses with the support or supplies necessary to operate, and which do not interact with the general public;
  • Businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food, goods, or services directly to residences;
  • Airlines, taxis, and other private transportation providers providing transportation services via automobile, truck, bus, or train;
  • Home-based care for seniors, adults, or children;
  • Assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and adult day care centers, and senior residential facilities;
  • Professional services, such as legal or accounting services, when necessary to assist with compliance with legally mandated activities;
  • Landscape and pool care businesses , including residential landscape and pool care services;
  • Childcare facilities providing services that enable employees exempted in this Order to work as permitted. To the extent possible, childcare facilities should operate under the following mandatory conditions: Childcare must be carried out in stable groups of 10 or fewer (inclusive of childcare providers for the group); children and child care providers shall not change from one group to another; if more than one group of children is cared for at one facility, each group shall be in a separate room. Groups shall not mix or interact with each other.
  • Businesses operating at any airport, seaport, or other government facility, including parks and government offices;
  • Pet supply stores;
  • Logistics providers; including warehouses; trucking, consolidators, fumigators, and handlers;
  • Telecommunications providers, including sales of computer or telecommunications devices and the provision of home telecommunications;
  • Provision of propane or natural gas;
  • Office space and administrative support necessary to perform any of the above-listed activities;
  • Open construction sites, irrespective of the type of building;
  • Architectural, engineering, or land surveying services;
  • Factories, manufacturing facilities, bottling plants, or other industrial uses;
  • Waste management services, including collection and disposal of waste;
  • Any business that is interacting with customers solely through electronic or telephonic means, and delivering products via mailing, shipping, or delivery services;
  • Private and municipal marinas and boat launches, docking, fueling, marine supply and other marina services, and other private outdoor recreational activities that comply with the spacing, maximum capacity and other requirements of federal, state and local executive orders and proclamations;
  • Hotels, motels, other commercial lodging establishments and temporary vacation rentals, subject to the requirements of Executive Order 2020-4;
  • Veterinarians and pet boarding facilities;
  • Mortuaries, funeral homes, and cemeteries;
  • The sale of alcoholic beverages is authorized consistent with Executive Order 2020-1;
  • Firearm and ammunition supply stores; and
  • Businesses providing services to any local, state, or federal government, including municipalities, pursuant to a contract with such government.

About the Authors:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.