Curry, Local Health Leaders Continue Stressing Importance Of Masks

May 28, 2020

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry joined local health executives Thursday at TIAA Bank Field to once again address the importance of mask-wearing. 

Curry said his administration will not mandate mask-wearing in public spaces, but he continues to offer a “very strong suggestion” to do so. 

“These are all personal decisions,” Curry said. “They're not political and we should not take them personally.”

Related: Mayor Announces When Jacksonville Pools, Camps And Youth Activities Will Reopen

Curry also wanted to clarify that just because someone is outside their home, it does not mean they immediately have to put on a mask. 

“I was jogging this weekend alone on a wide open canopy area with nobody around and a person [who] was coming at a distance walked by me and said ‘where's your mask?’” He added, “Let's have common sense. I was outdoors in a wide open space.”

UF Health Jacksonville CEO Leon Haley spoke first amongst the health leaders, choosing to keep his mask on while he talked.

“I hope that you can hear me with my mask, right? To emphasize, as the mayor said, the importance of wearing a mass, certainly in public spaces, but also to say it does not interfere with our ability to communicate,” Haley said. 

The CEO said while a small segment of the population deals with respiratory issues that make wearing a mask for long periods of time hard, most people shouldn’t have a problem with it.

“It's not a political issue, really,” Haley said. “It's around a healthcare issue that we're all trying to be part of.”

Executives from Baptist Health, Ascension St. Vincents, The Mayo Clinic, Brooks Rehabilitation, and the Naval Hospital Jacksonville also spoke. 

Related: Coronavirus Q & A, including list of testing sites

Hospitals and other medical centers have noted a decline in patients coming in for other health issues that aren’t COVID-19 related.

“Don't delay emergency care, said Ascension St. Vincents CEO Tom VanOsdol.
“We've got far too many people that are concerned and not coming for the care that they need.” 

Mayor Lenny Curry speaking with local health executives, including leaders from UF Health Jax, Baptist Health, Ascension St. Vincent's, The Mayo Clinic, among others.
Credit Sky Lebron / WJCT News

The executives said that hospitals are taking extra precautionary steps to make sure patients are exposed to coronavirus when they show up at their facilities.

Curry said there is no set date for Phase 2 of Florida’s reopening yet, but he hopes to “have some more activity next week.”  

“I'd like to see bars open sooner rather than later,” Curry said.   

He said the next step will be working with schools on a safe way to reopen for children. 

Curry also confirmed that he will testify in front of a Friday congressional committee on the city’s response to COVID-19. 

“I'm just going to tell our story,” Curry said. “And if given the opportunity, to also talk about the way we're going to move forward. This doesn’t have to, should not be a divisive issue. You can be pro-economy, pro-jobs, pro-people-getting-back-to-work and also operate in a responsible manner.”

Sky Lebron can be reached at slebron@wjct.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @SkylerLebron.

Related: Coronavirus Q & A, including list of testing sites