Fireworks to go on in Jacksonville despite COVID-19 concerns

No plans to close beaches for 4th of July; health officials warn of more cases due to festivities

Fourth of July fireworks in Jacksonville will still go on as planned, despite a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.

Fourth of July fireworks in Jacksonville will still go on as planned, despite a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.

The city-sponsored Independence Day fireworks will take off from six locations in what’s planned to be Jacksonville’s largest display ever.

Jacksonville-area beaches are also remaining open for the time being.

“We are prepared to act if there’s an urgent need to act,” said Jacksonville Beach Mayor Charlie Latham about beaches being open.

He thinks forecasted bad weather may keep crowds lower.

As far as closing the beaches and other safety measures, Neptune Beach Mayor Elaine Brown said: “Nothing is off the table.”

VIDEO: The Jacksonville beaches are still open, despite closures to the south, in Pam Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami.

Local leaders and health experts are still urging people to be careful.

“This isn’t over,” said UF Health infectious disease expert Chad Neilsen, who holds a master’s degree in public health. “Heat does not kill it outside.”

“Everybody’s gonna want to go to the beach, barbecue,” he told News4Jax. “I will tell you at the hospitals, in the public health authorities are doing, we are bracing ourselves because we know that three to four days after this weekend, and all the activities or expect to be going on, we’re probably going to see increased tests, increased cases and increased hospitalizations.”

Jacksonville’s Public Affairs Director Nikki Kimbleton announced Monday that masks are now mandatory at indoor public places where distancing can’t be kept.

“You know the personal measures that you can take to reduce the impact of COVID-19,” Kimbleton said during a noon news conference. “Please wear your masks.”

Kimbleton was speaking on behalf of the city in place of Mayor Lenny Curry, who said he had a family commitment.

She noted the fireworks show in Jacksonville will go on at six locations: Downtown Jacksonville, the St. Johns Town Center Mall, Florida State College at Jacksonville North Campus on the Northside, the Avenues Mall on the Southside, Normandy/Lem Merrett Park on the Westside and Ed Austin Regional Park in Arlington.

The city of Jacksonville will launch fireworks from six locations this 4th of July.

“By adding all these locations, we are certain that there are plenty of vantage points for everybody, where they can practice these guidelines,” Kimbleton said.

RELATED: By launching 4th of July fireworks from 6 spots, city hopes to spread out crowds

Beaches leaders opted to go without a show.

Since the displays are outdoors, masks aren’t required by this mandate, but city officials say they’re important and highly recommended. Health experts said the onus is on everyone to stop the spread.

“Hospitals are actively preparing for what could happen late next week this weekend when folks go out this weekend to do their barbecues, pool parties and all that. Inevitably the virus is going to spread,” Neilsen said.

About the Author:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.