JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The mayor of Jacksonville and hospital executives from Baptist Health, Ascension St. Vincent’s, UF Health, Mayo Clinic, Brooks Rehabilitation, and Jacksonville’s Naval Hospital held a joint news conference Thursday to encourage the public to wear face masks.
“We cannot afford to quarantine indefinitely. We must find a way to navigate this responsibly,” Mayor Lenny Curry said, encouraging Jacksonville’s citizens to be personally accountable and take precautions.
Curry cited experts who encourage the use of face coverings indoors in dense public spaces where social distancing is difficult. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said medical masks and cloth face coverings may slow the spread of COVID-19 and prevent people who have the virus but don’t know it from giving it to others.
“It not only protects me and my family, but it protects fellow citizens,” Curry said of wearing a mask.
The CDC said anyone over the age of 2 should wear one in public settings where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. Children under 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or can’t remove a mask without help, should NOT wear a mask.
Curry encouraged Jacksonville residents not to pass judgment on one another over wearing a mask and to not make it a political issue.
“This isn’t a police state, so if you’re in public and you see someone that has a mask on and don’t like it, don’t chide them,” Curry said. “If you see someone who doesn’t have a mask on and you’re not comfortable being around them, stay away from them. These are all personal decisions. They’re not political and we should not take them personally.”
Dr. Leon Haley Jr., CEO of UF Health, said masks matter and that the most protection is afforded when everyone is wearing them. He said if two people are interacting and neither wears a mask, the risks of transmitting COVID-19 are high, if only one of them wears a mask, the risk lowers to moderate.
“If we both have a mask on, our risk of transmission probably isn’t zero but it’s very, very low,” Haley said.
The CEOs each emphasized the need to continue social distancing and hand washing practices, and several encouraged people not to put off necessary medical treatment because of fears over the coronavirus. They said all the hospitals in the city are ready to treat patients safely for any condition.
"We’re all in this together and if we all take responsibility and look out for one another, we can prevent a resurgence of COVID-19 in Jacksonville,” Ascension St. Vincent’s CEO Tom VanOsdol said.
There is no requirement in Florida that says people must wear a mask, but a recent New Harris Poll found more than half of Americans support mandatory face masks in some form. It also showed:
- 40% say they should be worn indoors and outdoors
- 28% say they should be worn indoors only
- 22% of respondents answered masks should be recommended, but not mandatory
- 6% said masks should never be mandatory
- 4% said they weren’t sure
Another recent study out of Hong Kong found the spread of COVID-19 through droplets in the air decreased by as much as 75% when face masks were used.