JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Moments after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis failed to announce a timetable for reopening the state, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said he was “gradually and methodically” considering when and how to reopen restaurants and other businesses in Jacksonville.
Curry said the city was already meeting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention goal for testing to reopen and met the White House’s benchmarks for reduced positive cases to enter Phase 1 of reopening.
“Data combined with the manageable occupancy levels at our local hospitals demonstrates that we are on the right track,” Curry said.
Therefore, Curry asked businesses to begin thinking about how that could happen safely and implied he would announce something within days.
“For restaurants that may mean spacing your diners at least six feet apart, checking your employees’ temperatures, having them wear masks and regularly sanitizing your dining areas and kitchen,” Curry said. “For retail that may mean limiting person-to-person contact, wearing masks and possibly limiting the number of customers, allowing at one time. We will give more specific guidance.”
When John Crispens opened up his restaurant in Springfield he never imaged he would have to send 80% of his staff home because of a pandemic.
“The slow down was immediate so we had to, unfortunately, let go of our staff but we are still staying in contact with them when we can bring them back when its okay,” he said.
Now 40 days later, there’s hope.
Crispens says he is following the guidelines now with hand sanitizer at the bars, social distancing and to-go only for his customers, but he still has questions.
“The unknown. The mayor is saying be ready to reopen but he hasn’t said when,” Crispens said. “If he says we can open on Friday that’s not enough time to get ready but I would be happy to do so and make it work.”
Business owners around the city have the same concern but they are all ready to get back to a full staff and serving the community.
Curry added Monday that people should not expect concerts or other large events to resume and gatherings would remain limited to 10 for the foreseeable future.
“We can’t say home for six more months and this is probably going to be with us for six more months,” Curry said. “The safest way forward is to get people back to work with social distancing, encourage telework -- working from home -- masking when you’re in grocery stores, getting essentials and whatnot, and staying away from heavily populated, dense settings where people are around each other for extended periods of time.”
Curry said last week his goal was is to get Jacksonville reopened in May -- which begins Friday. Both city and statewide safe-at-home orders expire April 30.
One thing that will help make this happen is more coronavirus testing. On Friday, a walk-up site opened at Kooker Park on the Eastside. Over the next few days, Curry said additional sites will open in other Jacksonville neighborhoods. The city is working with Walmart to open drive-up testing sites in two of its parking lots.
Curry said that Jacksonville has been selected as a national test site for providing testing of the homeless population.