Mayor eyes ‘near-term’ timeline to partially reopen Jacksonville

Curry forms group of civic leaders to discuss plan to reopen safely

Mayor Lenny Curry won't reopen Jacksonville until three major criteria are met.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Mayor Lenny Curry announced Tuesday that he will be consulting with a group of civic leaders as Jacksonville moves toward incrementally reopening its economy in the “near term.”

Curry declined to name any specific dates, saying plans are evaluated daily based on the latest information from health care, government and economic leaders.

“I want to get our city back to work as much as anyone, but my top priority is the health and safety of the people of Jacksonville,” Curry said. “So we have to move forward in a cautious and incremental way. For now, I’m asking the people of Jacksonville to keep doing what you’re doing,”

The informal group of health and business leaders includes:

  • Daniel Davis, president and CEO of JaxChamber
  • Melissa Dykes, JEA’s interim managing director and CEO
  • Nat Ford, CEO of Jacksonville Transportation Authority
  • Dr. Diana Greene, superintendent of Duval County Public Schools
  • Eric Green, CEO of JaxPort
  • Steve Halverson, chairman of The Haskell Company
  • Dr. Leon Haley, CEO of UF Health Jacksonville
  • Dr. Mat Rill, founder and CEO of Telescope Health
  • Darnell Smith, Florida Blue’s market president for the North Florida REgion
  • Kent Stermon, COO of Total Military Management
  • Mark Van Loh, CEO of Jacksonville Aviation Authority
  • Jenny Vipperman, chief lending officer for VyStar Credit Union

Pointing to President Donald Trump’s three-phase plan for reopening the U.S. economy, Curry cited data that show Jacksonville is already reaching some of the necessary testing and curve-flattening milestones from Phase 1.

“We’ve been watching our percentage of positive tests continue to decline,” Curry said. “On April 6 our percentage of positive test results was at 6.3%. That number has been steadily decreasing. As of this morning, the Department of Health reports we are at 5.1%.”

Curry said tracking data on COVID-19 cases and exercising personal responsibility will be key factors as the city moves ahead slowly with reopening. He said every step will be taken in coordination with efforts from the state and Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“We are eyeing, not a specific date, but we are eyeing a near-term timeline to begin to incrementally open some things up,” Curry said. “We’ll do those in a way that’s the safest way possible, where people can be socially distant, and it will require some personal responsibility in behaviors.”

Curry took heat from national media over his decision to allow the beaches to reopen with restrictions.

But he defended that call on Monday, saying, “We’re not going to be locked in our homes months from now. That’s just not feasible. It’s not practical. So we as individuals have to take personal responsibility for our behaviors, social distancing, wearing masks in grocery stores. You go to the beach to walk or exercise, if you go in your neighborhood to walk or exercise, same thing. We are going to have to be very disciplined about our behaviors.”

Protesters urge mayor to reopen city

Protests against stay-at-home orders that have been organized by small-government groups and supporters of President Donald Trump made their way to Jacksonville on Tuesday.

About 30 protesters, including mothers and their children, gathered peacefully outside the Duval County Courthouse and then marched to City Hall to make the point that the state and the city should reopen as soon as possible. They held signs and flags, sang the national anthem and recited the Pledge of Allegiance.

“We are ready to get back to work,” said a protester named Holly, who did not give a last name. “It’s really important to get back to work.”

When asked if she thinks it’s safe for workers to return to business, Holly said: “It’s a virus. If you have a healthy immune system, you should be fine.”

Some young, otherwise healthy people have died after contracting COVID-19.

Protester Phil Statkus, who said he thinks health concerns over COVID-19 are overhyped, pointed to issues with the state’s beleaguered unemployment system.

“You can’t get unemployment,” Statkus said. “We all need to get back to work."

Nearly 840 people have died after testing positive for COVID-19 in Florida, and nearly 27,500 have been sickened by the virus, as of Tuesday afternoon.

VIDEO: Protesters march toward city hall demanding that businesses in the city and the state, be allowed to reopen after the coronavirus forced them to close.

About the Author:

A Jacksonville native and proud University of North Florida alum, Francine Frazier has been with News4Jax since 2014 after spending nine years at The Florida Times-Union.