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Jacksonville Mayor limits gatherings to 50 people, restricts alcohol sales amid coronavirus concerns

“This is only going to get worse in the days ahead," Mayor Lenny Curry says, "but we can flatten the curve.”

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Following a weekend of crammed bars and packed beaches, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry announced new limits and restrictions on restaurants and bars in Jacksonville until further notice. 

At a "state of  emergency" meeting of the Jacksonville City Council Monday, Curry said he will prohibit gatherings of more than 50 people in any establishment, following CDC recommendations. That includes churches, bars, and large restaurants with a maximum capacity above 50, but does not apply to grocery stores and pharmacies. 

He also banned alcohol sales from midnight to 8 a.m.

Curry said the weekend's Spring Break crowds in the Beaches community were "irresponsible and must be curtailed." 

"Bars filled to capacity -- they are sending the wrong message about this crisis."

The meeting came just hours after City Councilmember Sam Newby said he had tested positive for the coronavirus, and his colleague Randy White said he was self-quarantining because of recent contact with Newby. 

Curry said Newby's illness "should be a wake-up call for Duval County," adding, "It can affect everyone in our community."

"It’s not about us as individuals, it’s about us as a community," he said. He urged people to "not think about ourselves at this moment, say ‘I'm young, I’m healthy, I’m not vulnerable.'" 

Curry said his efforts were aimed at containing the spread of the deadly virus and assured residents. “This is only going to get worse in the days ahead, but we can flatten the curve," he said. "This is not an overreaction, but we don't need to panic."

The mayors of the beaches communities, as well as Sheriff Mike Williams and JFRD Chief Keith Powers were also in attendance to talk about the latest information on COVID-19.

Shortly after the meeting, the mayor issued this press release announcing all the changes:

JACKSONVILLE, Florida, March 16, 2020 — During a meeting with the Jacksonville City Council Monday, March 16, Mayor Lenny Curry declared that he is limiting crowd capacity of recreational and social gatherings and establishments to 50 people. These new limits are focused specifically on unnecessary social contact — for example, at shopping malls, restaurants, bars, churches and movie theaters. While office buildings, manufacturing plants, grocery stores, and many other businesses are exempt from these new limits, Mayor Curry advises that the safest option is for employees to perform duties from home or a more isolated place if possible. The directive will take effect at 5 p.m., Monday, March 16, and follows calls for residents to adhere to the CDC’s guidelines about social distancing.

“Over the weekend, I was extremely disturbed and disappointed to see private businesses and patrons facilitating events of massive amounts of people,” said Mayor Curry. “To continue adding to the threat of rapid transmission by allowing people to cram into bars, restaurants, churches and other places of gathering is irresponsible. It must be curtailed.”

In addition to the restriction on capacity, alcohol sales will be suspended between midnight and 8 a.m. until further notice. Those who don’t follow these regulations could be shut down by the City of Jacksonville. The City is working with State and Federal partners to find solutions for business owners who may be impacted by the mandate.

As authorities continue to monitor the virus, citizens are reminded to take the necessary precautions that include:

  • washing hands frequently;
  • maintaining a six-foot distance from people;
  • refraining from shaking hands;
  • not shopping at peak times, and taking advantage of delivery and pickup services;
  • avoiding unnecessary travel;
  • working remotely if possible; and
  • avoiding gatherings of 50 or more people.

Citizens who are experiencing symptoms or feel they may have the virus are encouraged to call or make a virtual appointment with a physician before going to a hospital or doctor’s office. Continuous updates about the local response to COVID-19 are available at JaxReady.com/Virus.

Join the conversation, join our Facebook group Facts Not Fear: Your Coronavirus Questions Answered.

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