JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Mayor Lenny Curry emerged Monday from his self-quarantine and virtual news conferences Monday to sit down with News4Jax for the first time since March. He talked about the major issues facing Jacksonville, including the city’s twin pandemics -- violent crime and coronavirus -- as well as answered questions about the now-canceled Republican National Convention.
Curry said that while his message for people to protect themselves and others from coronavirus since before the city and partially emerged from a two-month lockdown in June, people did let down their guard -- and their face coverings.
“You saw low numbers and I think some people got complacent and comfortable. That’s not a judgment, that’s human nature, right?” Curry said. “There was some level of complacency. You saw fewer masks in stores. People just felt good.”
But by early July the coronavirus numbers grew dramatically and we saw peaks well higher than in March and April when those stay-at-home orders went in place.
“We can’t make this mistake now,” Curry said. “Remind people (that) it’s with us, to be vigilant.”
When asked if he believed the city opened back up too soon, Curry said: “I do not think that we opened up too soon. I just think we got to be smart.”
News4Jax asked the mayor if he felt safe sending his three children -- going into grades six, eight and 10 -- back to school.
“Based on the information that I have today, yes,” he said.
While COVID-19 has taken 143 lives in Jacksonville by Monday, another 107 people have died by homicide in Duval County this year, according to News4Jax data. This has been the earliest Jacksonville has hit 100 homicides since at least 2006 -- as long as we have kept independent records.
So far in July, 58 people have been shot -- the most shot in any single month this year. The city is on track to exceed 500 people shot in 2020.
When asked about these statistics, Curry spoke of the city’s investment in community programs like summer camps and the Kids Hope Alliance, and a newer program called Cure Violence, which has worked to preempt violence in large cities like Philadelphia.
So News4Jax asked, at what point does he decide the measures he’s taking to fight violent crime, aren’t working?
“It’s going to take time to see those outcomes. The same with Cure Violence disruptors. It doesn’t help that in the middle of all this (is) COVID. I mean, COVID disrupted camps, summer camps. COVID disrupted Cure Violence disruptors,” Curry said. “So we have to continue to invest in those things. We know they work and I’m just going to keep remaining vigilant and investing in things that experts in prevention, intervention and enforcement tell me we ought to be investing in.”
When it comes to the Republican National Convention being pulled from Jacksonville, Curry told Joy Purdy that he wasn’t surprised by President Trump’s decision.
- Mayor Curry: “I said, we need to keep an eye on this and we very well could get to the point where that decision has to be made. We’re not there. We don’t know where we’re going to be. And we still have weeks, we’re still weeks out. The president made the decision this was the right time to do it and I support it.”
- Joy Purdy: “There are some people who say the president in Washington DC was able to look at Jacksonville and say no this is not the right time we can’t do it… You know the city very intimately you’re the mayor. Why wouldn’t you make that call?”
- Mayor Curry: “Well, I still had weeks.”
The mayor continued:
- Mayor Curry: “If we were sitting here today without a cancelled RNC, there would still be no people at health risk because we have weeks before there were actually people getting into town. But that decision was made, and it was the right decision, and I’m glad he did it.”
- Joy Purdy: “So you still feel you’ve had a couple of weeks before making that call one way or the other.”
- Mayor Curry: “I think I would’ve had seven to 12 days, ballpark -- yeah.”
Curry said President Trump personally called him the next day, thanking him for his support.