Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry held a press conference Friday to address the new city testing site that opened at the Prime Osborn Convention Center and the upcoming federal testing site opening this weekend at Lot J near TIAA Bank Field.
“I realize what’s happened so far as it related to COVID-19 has been catastrophic to people and businesses," Curry said.
He asked for people who are not suffering from the virus to understand why others need care and help at this time.
What you need to know about the testing site:
As for Lot J, Curry said that the testing site will open at 9 a..m. Saturday, March 21. That particular site, operated by the federal government, does not require a doctor screen ahead of time or an appointment.
If an on-site doctor at the testing site determines that they meet the criteria for COVID-19, they will be tested. If they don't meet the criteria they won't be tested.
Testing will be available for anyone who is 65 years and older who has 99.6 degrees or higher temperatures plus respiratory symptoms. Testing is also open to healthcare and first responders who will have direct contact with patients.
The testing at Lot J will be free of charge and they hope to open it to more people in the future.
Curry asked people who come from the Westside of town to use Bay Street and those who are coming from the Eastside of town to use Gator Bowl Boulevard to get to the testing site.
People are advised to not show up before 9 a.m. and they must stay in their vehicle. If you do not have a vehicle, you are advised to go to your health care provider.
Curry said he anticipates long lines at Lot J. They require a maximum of four people per vehicle. If there are more than four people, that additional person will be asked to return the next day.
People must bring an I.D. to Lot J and an insurance card if they have it, but insurance is not required. Health care workers and first responders are asked to bring their work I.D.
Language interpreters will be available on-site at Lot J.
The city-sponsored site opened Thursday morning and will continue to open at 11 a.m. each day seven days a week. Citizens must be Duval County residents. They must get an appointment via the Telescope Health website app first, from which they will be reimbursed the $25 fee at a later time.
Duval beaches to close "indefinitely"
Additionally, Curry announced beginning at 5 p.m. Friday all Duval County beaches will be closed "indefinitely". Anyone who violates that order will be charged with trespassing after that time.
"This is for everyone’s safety,' he said. "We must stop this virus. We must stop the spread. We must practice social distancing."
He said after speaking to all three beach mayors he realized there was cause for concern to close the beaches, especially when the tide comes in, he said it leaves no room on the beach and people are forced into crowds.
On Friday, Curry said he sent a letter to all U.S. Senators voicing support for Senator Rick Scott's proposal to expand unemployment insurance and impose a moratorium on mortgage payments, rent and utility bills. The mayor said he fully supports that proposal and encourages people to voice their support to lawmakers, as well.
There are some other programs available in the meantime.
"As a former business owner I completely understand those concerns and I share them," Curry said.
He said a Small Business Bridge Loan Program has been activated by Governor Ron DeSantis at the state level. More information can be found at floridadisasterloan.org.
At the federal level, the Small Business Administration is offering low-interest disaster loans through disasterloanatspa.gov.
"We made these difficult decisions to save lives," Curry said.
He encouraged companies large and small to allow employees to work remotely when possible and to maintain distance if not possible. He has also prevented all enforcement of eviction orders until April 3.
"Unusual times call for unusual measures," Curry said.
As for the beaches closing, Curry said he did what he felt like he had to do for everyone's safety.
"I understand the concern," he said. "The weather is going to be beautiful, people are going to want to be out there soaking up the sun. In the end, when people congregate on the beaches when the tides come in, you can’t manage it."