Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry announced Monday that he is limiting the crowd capacity of establishments for recreational and social gatherings to 50 people and banning the sale of alcohol after midnight.
“Over the weekend, I was extremely disturbed and disappointed to see private businesses and patrons facilitating events and gatherings of massive amounts of people. Bars and restaurants filled to capacity or beyond may be good for the bottom line in the short run, but they are sending the wrong message about this crisis,” Mayor Curry said at a City Council meeting on Monday.
Curry says he was disappointed to see large gatherings over the weekend.
— Brendan Rivers (@BrendanRivers) March 16, 2020
“So, effective at 5 p.m. today in Duval County, all places of gathering that have a legally allowed capacity of more than 50 people must not allow more than that number in their establishment,” he said.
The city aims to reduce social contact in places like malls, restaurants, bars, churches, and movie theaters. Office buildings, manufacturing plants, grocery stores, and many other businesses will be exempt. The city is encouraging grocery stores to clean and disinfect surfaces frequently and to find ways to prevent lines from forming.
Alcohol sales have also been suspended between midnight and 8 a.m. until further notice.
In an email to WJCT News, city spokeswoman Nikki Kimbleton wrote that establishments that don’t follow these regulations “could be shut down by the City of Jacksonville.”
These decisions were made in collaboration with the Beaches’ mayors, who stood behind Mayor Curry as he made the announcement at City Hall.
So many places of business are going to be exempt from this so they can carry on business as usual. This limit is specifically for social situations, shopping at the mall, eating out, and going to the movies, for example. (2)
— City of Jacksonville (COJ) (@CityofJax) March 16, 2020
Mayor Curry said one of the main concerns motivating these decisions is hospital capacity.
“In Jacksonville, we have hospitals and medical facilities that are the envy of the world. These institutions can only accommodate a limited number of cases, if we see a surge in need. To continue adding to the threat of rapid transmission by allowing people to cram into bars, restaurants, churches, and other places of gathering is irresponsible, and it must be curtailed,” he said.
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“We know these decisions will cause economic difficulties for many in our community,” said Curry. “We are working with state and federal partners to find solutions for those impacted.”
The city has not yet shared details on what this aid might look like.
“I understand the anxieties many citizens are feeling but I want the people of Jacksonville to understand this is not an overreaction. These are important actions advised by medical professionals throughout the country to slow the spread of this disease. But we do not need to panic. We have the plans and policies in place to respond. We all play a role in flattening the curve,” Curry said. “This disease is particularly harmful to seniors and citizens with compromised immune systems. So while it may not be particularly harmful to some of us, we could potentially carry the virus to someone who we love, who we care about. Act accordingly, be cautious, and take necessary preventive measures.”