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Jacksonville Mayor doubles down on not imposing mask mandate, expert says risk-benefit ratio of vaccine makes shot worth it

Mayor Lenny Curry said if private business want to impose masking, then people should support that.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Mayor Lenny Curry and mayors of the beach communities provided updates regarding COVID-19 Wednesday during a news conference.

Curry doubled down on his stance on not bringing back a citywide mask mandate and urged people to get vaccinated.

"When we put the mask mandate in place last year, we did not have access to the vaccine, now we do," said Curry. "It is the most effective way to protect our community."

He said if private business want to impose masking then people should support that, however, he says that the City of Jacksonville will not be imposing one.

Dr. Saman Soleymani, owner of Avecina Medical weighed in on the delta variant, saying that the strain is more aggressive than the first COVID-19 strain we saw locally last year.

He says over 40% of the COVID patients they saw last year were asymptomatic, while this year, the ratio of patients that are asymptomatic is almost zero. Soleymani says most patients have symptoms and are "quite sick."

He says getting the data overwhelming shows that the risk-benefit ratio of getting the vaccine favors the vaccinated.

"Almost 5,800 people die every single year from choking on their food, and that's the most basic necessity of life, and still, almost 6,000 people die from choking on their own food. So, do we consider eating not safe?" Soleymani asks.

"38,000 people die annually from motor vehicle accidents but we, knowing that risk, where one person dies every seven minutes, we still get in our cars, strap our kids in and go to work...."

Mayor Ellen Glasser of the City of Atlantic Beach also spoke, urging first responders to get vaccinated so that people who need emergency help can be reassured that they will not be infected.

As of right now, the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department says it's not requiring vaccines for EMTs or other first responders. 

Last month, lagging vaccination rates among nursing home staff were linked to a national increase in COVID-19 infections and deaths at senior facilities.

Mayo Clinic, Baptist and Ascension (including Ascension St. Vincent's) currently require all employees to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 or complete a declination. 

Mayor Elaine Brown of Neptune Beach and Mayor Chris Hoffman of the City of Jacksonville Beach also spoke during the news conference Wednesday.

They encouraged residents to get the vaccine, saying that people should do their part to help be a solution to the pandemic.