JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said Tuesday that he and his family are in self-quarantine after he was exposed to a person who tested positive for COVID-19.
He said he has already tested negative but is remaining in self-isolation at home out of an abundance of caution, following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Curry said he was out on a scheduled vacation with his family last week but learned on Sunday that he’d been in contact with a positive coronavirus patient. He said he was with them days before learning of the positive test and that the person was symptomatic.
“I have been tested and am negative. However, my family and I are in self-quarantine at home,” he said. “Even though I’m negative, we’re doing this in accordance with CDC guidance as a precaution for our friends, family and neighbors.”
He said he’s staying in the loop with his team, emergency management and health care leaders in the city as he monitors the ongoing pandemic and manages the city’s response.
Jacksonville COVID-19 cases
As of Tuesday, Jacksonville had reported 9,835 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began. Currently, the mayor said, 375 people in the city have been hospitalized with the virus, 68 of them in the intensive care unit. He said Duval County has an 8.1-percent positive test percentage, a cumulative figure that accounts for cases tallied since March.
Curry said hospitalizations for coronavirus are going up but those patients aren’t flooding the intensive care units at local hospitals. He said the ICU beds, which are closely monitored, are filling up, but not with COVID-19 patients.
“The risk is that as this community spread happens that it spreads into a vulnerable population and, again, it stresses our hospital systems,” Curry said, adding that the hospitals are not there yet but it’s a concern. “Their loads are up and we just have to do everything we can to slow the spread.”
Currently, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has 57 personnel who have tested positive. Almost 81 sworn personnel in quarantine, along with 114 corrections officers, Sheriff Mike Williams said. At the jail, he said, there are 189 positive cases among inmates and a total of 1,038 inmates are in some sort of quarantine or isolation due to coronavirus.
As for the fire department, Chief Keith Powers said 51 personnel have tested positive, which he noted is down since last week. He estimated that 187 members of the department are currently in quarantine.
New testing sites
The news comes a day before three new federal testing sites are set to open in Jacksonville. The sites opening on Wednesday will significantly increase testing capacity in Duval County.
The new sites are located at Regency Square Mall at 9501 Atlantic Blvd., First Coast High School at 590 Duval Station Road and Frank H. Peterson Academies at 7450 Wilson Blvd.
These sites will be open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
“These sites combined, we’ll be able to test an additional 3,750 people each day,” Curry said. “When you factor in Lot J and the Legends Center, that’s almost 5,000 tests available each day.”
Testing is free of charge and open to anyone, regardless of symptoms or where they live. Those seeking COVID-19 tests can register here.
The mayor said testing will continue at Lot J until July 15, but afterward, those operations will move to the Regency mall location.
Last week, Curry issued a face mask mandate for Jacksonville, requiring people to wear masks indoors when they can’t socially distance.
Tuesday, he said this decision was based on the advice of medical experts, all of whom said it was in the best interest of the community.
“I’ve always been a proponent of wearing a mask,” he said. “I take it seriously when any government is going to issue a mandate and require things. That’s a very serious decision, in my mind, because people want to be able to make their own decisions.”
The mayor said the mandate is enforceable but he would rather people take personal responsibility and abide by the rules than devote resources to making sure people are taking the order seriously.
“There are very few levers we can utilize in government,” Curry said, noting that the easiest one to pull is urging people to wear masks. “Let’s just be smart. Let’s just be responsible.”
He suggested that businesses require their customers to adhere to the order and recommended that people keep their distance in public from those they see not wearing masks.
“We don’t want to be operating in a police state around here, running around grabbing people,” he said.
Addressing Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran’s order Monday that all schools must be open five days a week when school resumes next month, Curry said he wants students — including his two daughters, who attend public schools — back in school.
“I want it to be done in a safe and responsible way,” he said. “But I think it’s important that our young people be back in a learning environment, and be able to socially interact with their friends while learning again to be done in a responsible way that includes social distancing, and all the other necessary precautions.”
As he urged people to wear masks and maintain social distance in public, the mayor reminded people to avoid crowds whenever possible. He said he continues to hear stories about people hosting house parties and implored them to cut that out. “Let’s just be personally responsible,” he said.
Asked about the Republican National Convention, the mayor said the event late next month is “many, many weeks away.” He said city officials are acting appropriately now and will continue to act appropriately as the Aug. 24 convention nears.
“We are currently under a statewide executive order by the governor,” he said. “Facilities cannot participate in anything over 50-percent capacity. That’s where we are right now, and so we’re just going to continue to evaluate as we move towards that date.”