Public Health Experts Call For Jacksonville Mask Mandate Ahead Of RNC

Jun 25, 2020

Some are calling for a citywide mask ordinance ahead of part of the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Jacksonville this August.

No plans have been announced for requiring masks or physical distancing for the expected thousands of people coming to town for the RNC.

RNC aside, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry has not indicated that he will make masks mandatory, but is encouraging residents to wear them.

Related: Local, State, And National Coronavirus Coverage

Thursday on WJCT’s First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross, recently retired CEO of Baptist Health Hugh Greene said Mayor Curry should issue a city-wide mask-wearing ordinance, as other large-city Florida mayors have done.  

“I see no reason not to do that, to protect; we’re here to protect the health and safety of the people of this community and we know masks make a difference in the community spread,” Greene said. 

Dr. Jeff Goldhagen, chief of the Division of Community and Societal Pediatrics at the University of Florida College of Medicine, Jacksonville, and former Director of the Duval County Health Department, also appeared on Thursday’s show. 

Earlier this week, he penned an opinion piece for The Florida Times-Union, in which he too said “masks and social distancing should be mandated in all public places and businesses.”

On Thursday, Goldhagen said, “Mayor Curry has done a great job up to this point. The reason why our numbers are lower here than other parts of the state is in part because of his leadership. Now, it's not time to step back, but it's time to redouble our efforts under his leadership, which requires his leadership in order to be able to continue to protect our community. And if we are going to have the convention, then it would be good to go into the convention with some solid public health practices that won’t eliminate risk, but will diminish the risk as much as much as possible.”

Goldhagen also pointed out another issue in trying to slow the spread of COVID-19 is the “deafening silence from organized medicine and  from public health. We need to organize medicine, public health to step up to the plate and make a statement as to what is the appropriate public health policy and what is the appropriate medical policy.”

Like Mayor Curry, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has thus far declined to mandate masks at a state level, leaving local governments to set their own policies.

Greene added, “I do find it inconsistent that we're going to warn businesses that you could potentially remove licenses for not observing the capacity restrictions. There's been a call for masks even though no mandate, and there's been an emphasis on social distancing. We're not opening movie theaters and large crowds in those kinds of settings. And yet, we are inviting, tens of thousands of people to our community, as Dr. Goldhagen said, from all over the country, including hot spots, and none of these restrictions apparently are going to apply.” 

Greene said that the city should make sure any restrictions that apply to residents also apply to convention visitors.  

 

Heather Schatz can be reached at hschatz@wjct.org or on Twitter at @heatherschatz.