Could Jacksonville ban large parties to combat COVID-19 spike?

City Council member to propose ban limiting large gatherings as cases continue to climb

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As the daily average of COVID-19 numbers continues to rise in Jacksonville, the City Council is considering new steps to combat the spike.

Legislation will be introduced that would ban large parties indoors and outside, unless those hosting them get a permit from the city.

The proposal would prohibit large gatherings, like block parties, of 50 or more people near public rights-of-way or buildings unless they have the owners’ consent or a permit.

There would be exceptions: Sporting events and those exercising First Amendment rights, such as freedom of religion or speech and the right to assemble and protest, would be allowed.

There would also be a penalty -- a written warning and the possibility of a $25 fine for each violation.

The idea of blocking unauthorized block parties might not sit well with some, but others, like Lamar Hooper, said it’s a matter of public safety.

“Mainly they are doing their job because the way that everything is going on in the world and the coronavirus,” Hooper said. “It’s OK to have a little bit of people around but a lot of people like that, that’s how you get sick fast.”

The legislation is being introduced Tuesday by Councilwoman Ju’Coby Pittman. If approved, it would only last a year in hopes that the pandemic would be gone by the time it expires.

Currently, Duval County is the only county in Northeast Florida to maintain a mask-wearing mandate. The city of Fernandina Beach also has a mask mandate in place.

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