Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry extended his local emergency declaration for another 30 days, until at least May 13.
Curry initially issued the emergency declaration on March 13, which shut down all events at city-owned facilities. The order also closed all parks, libraries, and the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.
“There have been long days, tough decisions, and hard times for many people since then,” Curry said. “But together, we're getting through this.”
This is separate from Curry's stay-at-home order, which closed all non-essential businesses until the end of April.
Curry said the ratio of people being tested compared to people testing positive in the area remains low compared to other metropolitan areas of the state, at around 5.5%.
Despite the trend, Curry said people in the area need to remain committed to social distancing measures.
“I want to remind folks, models are not predicting the peak for another week or week and a half, so we still have work to do,” Curry said.
At the Lot J testing site at TIAA Bank Field, the daily testing capacity has increased to 400, while 60 National Guard members have come in to help local authorities run the site.
Curry applauded people he’s seen in public wearing masks, and suggested mask-wearing will need to be implemented for workforces that want to return to normal operations.
“When we go back to work, we're probably going to be needing to wear masks for a period of time to err on the safe side,” Curry said.
The mayor gave an update on the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department, noting that three firefighters have now tested positive for COVID-19. All of the firefighters worked at Station 28 on Hogan Road, where it was announced last week that a firefighter had tested positive.
One of the firefighters worked another shift at Station 54 before being confirmed positive. JFRD ordered that people working during that shift be removed from the station, which is located on Philips Highway on the Southside.
“One of them is on the road to recovery, doing a lot better,” said JFRD Chief Keith Powers. “One of them is one of the kinds of tests that show that their person is asymptomatic...and the last person is still struggling, having some pretty difficult times right now.”
Powers said that the Month of March saw a 20% increase in drug overdoses compared to February.
“Their doctors’ offices are closed, their pain management clinics are closed and they're turning to street drugs to supplement their pain medications,” Powers said.
Asked about the surge of crime in recent weeks, Curry said he is concerned with its connection to COVID-19.
“Cure Violence, obviously, with social distancing, that impacts the ability to get out into the community and mitigate retaliation from one violent act to the next,” Curry said. “The Kids Hope Alliance, which provides spaces for young people and summer jobs and year round jobs, learning opportunities, all those things are prevention and intervention related. To help young people make good decisions and not end up in a space or a life of violent crime.”
Curry also commended the University of Florida Health Jacksonville, which has been testing low-income areas and community centers. Curry said he heard U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams address how the coronavirus was disproportionately affecting African American communities, and how UF’s testing is needed.
“We're grateful that they're testing and as we get testing and results, we'll have more information on impacts locally,” Curry said.
As for Jacksonville’s economy, Curry said his team is looking at infrastructure projects they can expedite.
“Yes, we're going to need the federal government and state government in terms of testing and a national plan to go back to work,” Curry said. “But local municipalities should take some responsibility.”
Curry also encouraged larger businesses in the area to set up their own methods of testing for when people get back to work, so they can be immediately isolated rather than having to shut all businesses down again.
Sky Lebron can be reached at email@example.com, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @SkylerLebron.