On Thursday Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry addressed the city on their latest efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19. In addition to local media joining the press conference via video chat, the mayor also invited two local students to join in and ask their own questions.
“I feel lit’s important to listen to our children and address the concerns and questions they may have," he said.
Curry said this would be his last public press conference until after the Easter holiday unless there is a major development that needs to be announced.
"At this time of self-isolation, I hope you find time to celebrate this special day,” he said.
The city will continue to provide updates via social media through the rest of the week and weekend.
As of noon Wednesday, Curry said there were 589 positive COVID-19 cases in Duval County. Locally there are 50 hospitalizations right now and, so far, 11 people have died from the virus.
“Thinking about the families who lost a loved one and in fact those who have had to die alone," Curry said.
The percentage of positive tests remains low for Jacksonville at 5.6%, while the state average is at 10.7%.
Curry also announced that a Jacksonville Fire and Rescue firefighter tested positive for COVID-19 and is symptomatic.
"While he is on the mend, in an abundance of caution, three shifts linked to this firefighter are being isolated until they can get tested," he said. “This is a reminder of the gravity of the situation, the danger that this virus, this ghost of a virus, poses to our community. This is a moment in time that will define us as people, how we behave while we are in this crisis. We have to continue to practice social distancing and take this seriously to protect, not only our lives but the lives of other people.”
Curry said how our city reacts and pulls together once the pandemic is over will also define us. Until then, he said it is paramount that we are prepared in case we were to be hit with another wave or another virus.
“This one surprised many," he said. "Now we know. So I'm telling you that your city is thinking about ways when we come out of this how we mitigate really early another wave of this or something else.”
Curry applauded the community for taking the virus seriously. He said most people in Duval County are heeding the orders to stay home, to social distance and to wash their hands properly. It is because of this that he said our percentage of positive tests remains low.
According to some medical experts, Curry said we could start to "turn the corner in the next week or two", but he said that only can happen if people don’t let up with social distancing.
He reminded people to abide by their orders if they are hosting any gatherings or events. They must maintain social distancing and cannot have more than ten people gathered together. He said starting next week the city's social services team will facilitate applications for safely holding events in the future.
The Center for Disease Control has issued a recommendation on using cloth masks as a last resort if no other masks are available, so Curry reminded people to use cloth, such as a bandana, to cover their faces in public.
He applauded Daily's for leading as a "prime example" because they are requiring all of their employees to wear masks and he advises other companies to follow suit.
While people monitor their health for symptoms of COVID-19, Curry said he spoke with a physician recently who reminded him that a symptom of the virus is the lack of smell and taste.
As far as local testing goes Curry said everything at the Lot J testing site will continue as normal. As of Wednesday, they will add 150 daily tests to the site making the new daily number of tests 400.
The federal staff at Lot J will conclude this weekend because that is when their timeline from the original plan was over, however they will leave behind all of their supplies and they will continue to provide supplies and protective equipment as needed. Curry said thanks to Governor Ron DeSantis the state will continue to operate that testing site.
Curry said testing results are coming in quicker now. Results for positive cases should be given in three to five days now and negative tests should be given in three to seven days.
Testing at both sites, Lot J and the Prime Osborn Convention Center will be closed on Sunday for the Easter holiday.
As people continue to isolate at home, Curry reminded everyone to fill out the 2020 United States Census. Only half of Duval County residents have filled out the census so far.
"For each person not counted, Jacksonville loses approximately $1,500 in federal funding per year."
Jacksonville's beaches will remain closed for the time being. Curry said they will not be opening this weekend. He discusses the beaches with the beach mayors and law enforcement on a daily basis.
“Look, we want people to be able to walk, exercise and move on the beach, it's just irresponsible right now because if you open it for that there is no way to police access points," he said.
Curry reassures Duval County residents that no matter what their concerns about the city's budget maybe, he is not having any "conversations or thoughts about putting more tax burden" on the people of Jacksonville.
He said people are struggling enough right now. He said politics must be put aside and we must focus on pulling together as a community.
A student from Englewood High School asked Curry about the possibility of a united prom event that includes all of the schools to be held at the Prime Osborn Convention Center at a later date so they can still have that experience. Curry told the student he thought it was a great idea.
“I hate that you’re having to experience this, but I applaud you for being strong and courageous for helping us stop this spread and I applaud you for thinking about your peers and wanting to do something citywide," he said. "My team will connect with you, you can help us connect with the right people and we will work to provide an experience that will be memorable for you."
A student from Kernan Middle School asked Curry about suggestions to have fun and stay busy as home.
Curry said his three kids are getting "restless" too. He suggested playing games with their family, like cards, getting off devices, and to avoid laying around in the house. He encourages people to still go outside and to go for a run or a walk. He also again encouraged people to make the 7 p.m. phone call to a friend or loved one to check in daily and talk about anything except COVID-19.
"We are in a life or death situation right now and my focus with my remaining time in office is going to be making sure that this city does everything it can to help people get back on their feet," he said. "To make sure they have jobs, to make sure they can take care of their families, to make sure they can get help if they need it, to make sure the city has enough health care providers."
Curry said the only way the city can pull through this time is by having faith, heeding the orders and working together.