Mayor Curry Announces Team To Help Advise Him On Reopening Jacksonville

Apr 21, 2020

Mayor Lenny Curry announced the group of community members he’ll be consulting with about reopening Jacksonville’s economy. 

The people he’ll have on this team are: 

  • Daniel Davis, President and CEO of Jax Chamber
  • Nat Ford, CEO of Jacksonville Transportation Authority
  • Diana Greene, Superintendent of Duval County Public Schools 
  • Melissa Dykes, Interim CEO of JEA
  • Eric Green, CEO of JAXPORT
  • Leon Haley, CEO of UF Health Jacksonville 
  • Matthew Rill, MD and CEO of Telescope Health 
  • Darnell Smith, North Florida Market President of Florida Blue
  • Jennie Vipperman, Chief Lending Officer of VyStar Credit Union
  • Steve Halverson, Chairman of the Haskell Company
  • Kent Stermon, COO of Total Military Management
  • Mark VanLoh, CEO of Jacksonville Aviation Authority

Curry said this is an informal group of people to discuss different facets of reopening weekly. One would be infrastructure, where Curry said they can collaborate on which projects can be moved up to get people working again.

Another is ways to get the economy moving again.  

“The budget is going to be very tough,” Curry said. “It's going to be about priorities. Priorities that are about people, their families and getting people back to work.” 

Another angle is testing. Curry said he’ll speak with the healthcare professionals to determine testing and hospital capacities, along with an antibody test. So far, he said just over 18,000 people have been tested in Duval County. 

“I want to get our city back to work as much as anyone, but my top priority is the health and safety of the people of Jacksonville,” Curry said. “So we have to move forward in a cautious and incremental way.”

Curry referred to President Donald Trump’s three-phase method of opening states back up as a model to follow for the region.

To enter the first phase of reopening, cities must show a downward trend for COVID-19 cases and the overall percentage of positive tests. Cities must also show expanded and adequate testing, along with enough open hospital beds.

Curry cited Dr. Deborah Birx, who is the coordinator for the White House’s coronavirus task force. She mentioned Jacksonville’s efforts in the declining number of positive cases on Monday.

“She said she had looked at our health department's data and used our city as an example of an area that's flattening the curve and meeting certain milestones to begin to reopen at some point in the near term,” Curry said. 

The mayor said he’ll give businesses the time to prepare before reopening, but they should start planning out social distancing measures. 

“Entry points - you don't want large groups of people at an entry point,” Curry said. “How do you space out people when they're coming into a place? So, those are some of the things people ought to be thinking about at this point.”

The number of positive cases compared to the number of tests administered remains at 5.1%. A chart the city showed at the press conference had the same comparison at 6.3% on April 6.

The City of Jacksonville showed a graph of declining positive COVID-19 tests over the past couple weeks
Credit City of Jacksonville

In response to Georgia Governor Brian Kemp reopening many businesses in the state later this week, Curry said each situation is different.

“I can't speak to that,” Curry said. “What I can speak to is that we're under a safer-at-home order statewide right now.” 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ safer-at-home order is currently scheduled to run through the end of April. 

Curry also said it was an honor to be selected as part of the Reopen Florida Task Force created by DeSantis. 

“I think it'll also give us as a city some insight as to best practices, as we're contemplating locally how we reopen,” Curry said. 

He also defended DeSantis, who has received criticism for not including any doctors on the state task force.

“The governor and his team are talking to physicians about this,” Curry said. “So that doesn't concern me at all. And I just think it's an unfair news cycle for him.”

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