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Mayor Lenny Curry Pushes Vaccinations, Resists Mandates

CurryMask.jpg
Via News4Jax
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Mayor Lenny Curry imposed a mask mandate last year during a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Mayor Lenny Curry says he won’t pursue COVID-19 mitigation strategies like mask and vaccine mandates or lockdowns and is instead going all-in on encouraging residents to get vaccinated.

In two appearances Wednesday, first with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the leaders of various hospitals throughout the state, then with the mayors of Duval County’s beach towns, Curry pushed back against calls for mandates or other restrictions.

“I’m not considering shutdowns of any form,” he said. “People need to be able to go to work, they need to be able to go to school, they need to be able to live their lives and in my opinion, they ought to be vaccinated.”

While the CDC recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status, Curry has questioned the effectiveness of mask mandates.

In a series of tweets late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, Curry asked for evidence that masks prevented an increase in COVID-19 cases. Several people responded with links to studies from the CDC. 

As part of a since-deleted series of retweets, Curry also shared a statement comparing vaccine mandates, including those from employers, to concentration camps during the Holocaust. Action News reporter Ben Becker said he had asked the mayor’s office about the retweets and was awaiting a response. 

On Wednesday, Curry told reporters the mask mandate he imposed on Jacksonville during last year’s surge had limited effectiveness.

The mayor clarified that he is not anti-mask and supports businesses and hospitals that have imposed mask mandates on employees and patrons, but he would not enact any new mandates in the county.

With the availability of vaccines, Curry said, other mitigation efforts are not a priority, and health officials, the media and political leaders should instead focus on persuading hesitant residents to voluntarily get the vaccine, he said. 

“It's the best tool we have to protect our health systems. And it's the best way to keep our economy thriving, prevent encroachment on personal freedoms, and put this pandemic behind us once and for all,” he said. 

Curry said he would not require county employees to be vaccinated.

Raymon Troncoso can be reached at rtroncoso@wjct.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @RayTroncoso.