JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With an eye to the future and helping local businesses recover “when the time is right” to reopen the city, Mayor Lenny Curry emphasized Monday that that time is not now.
Curry said it's important to realize that one local municipality like Jacksonville won't save the economy because the COVID-19 pandemic is worldwide.
“Opening our city while others continue to suffer would be irresponsible and dangerous to our citizens, health care workers (and) first responders,” Curry said. “We are still in the midst of a very real public health crisis.”
He said that social distancing measures like his Safer-At-Home executive order are key to ensure the city reduces the spread of the virus.
“We must remain focused and vigilant. I want to remind folks, models are not predicting the peak for another week or week and a half, so we still have work to do,” Curry said. “That's why our local and state orders remain in place.”
Curry also signed a new proclamation that extends the state of emergency for another 30 days, allowing the city to continue receiving state and federal funds as it addresses the COVID-19 crisis.
Looking down the road, Curry said his team is monitoring what the federal government is doing as far as restarting the economy.
“(We) are already thinking about what we need to do at the local level to get this city moving again -- when it’s the right time,” Curry said.
Curry said face masks and COVID-19 testing won’t be over when people go back to work.
“I'm going to encourage large companies in town, when we get more information and data, to consider maybe implementing their own testing,” he said. “So people can quickly be identified on the other side of this and isolated, so we don't end up back in a complete shutdown.”
Curry said the city is considering the possibility of speeding up infrastructure projects that have been in the pipeline because the work needs to be done and could be a way to create jobs.
“As we think about the economy, President Trump has got his task force that he's announced to get the country back to work. When they arrive at that point, we are locally and internally thinking about what kind of things can we do that will help incent people, businesses to go back to work, to create jobs,” Curry said.
The mayor said personnel also regularly review the city’s loan program launched in conjunction with Vystar Credit Union to see if any changes need to be made, such as increasing the city’s lending cap.
State takes over Lot J testing site
The Lot J COVID-19 testing site at TIAA Bank Field reopened Monday morning under the control of the Florida National Guard.
Nearly 60 National Guard members reported for duty at Lot J. Curry said the transition to the Florida National Guard will relieve the city’s first responders and free them up to resume their regular duties.
The Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department continues to assist at the site, which should be able to test up to 400 people a day now -- more than 250 person limit the federal government previously had at the site.
A line of severe storms moving through the area forced the site to temporarily close Monday morning around 10:30 a.m., about 90 minutes after it first opened. The site reopened at 2:30 p.m.
The site will now test anyone who has had contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, even if they’re not showing symptoms.
In addition, results are coming back faster, Curry said.
“If you test positive you’ll be notified first and should have results in three to five days,” Curry said. “Results for negative tests may take an extra couple of days.”
On Saturday, 299 people were tested, according to the city.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said the state has ordered antibody tests because of the belief that many people are carrying the virus without realizing it.