Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, his staff and healthcare experts have been discussing a mask order for more than a week. | AP Photo
Jacksonville, where the Republican National Convention is slated to be held in August, is planning to institute a city-wide mask order to stem the spread of coronavirus, city hall sources tell POLITICO.
The announcement, scheduled for noon, requires indoor-mask wearing only — not an outside mandate that other local governments in Florida have passed. Jacksonville is unlike any other municipality in the state because the sprawling city essentially encompasses all of Duval County in northeast Florida.
As the number of cases in in the city and state rise, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, his staff and healthcare experts have been discussing a mask order for more than a week, two sources said. A final turning point for Curry came after the decisions by the Coast Guard and Navy, which has two facilities in Jacksonville, to order indoor mask-wearing.
“Healthcare experts say it mitigates risk and city hall learned military installations in Jacksonville are mandating it as well,” a source said of Curry’s thinking.
Curry, a former Republican Party of Florida chairman, has been ideologically resistant to passing government mandates. At one point, he considered shutting bars in the city, but held off in advance of Gov. Ron DeSantis essentially doing that statewide.
Curry is determined to have the GOP convention take place safely in Jacksonville, and those familiar with his thinking say he wants to do what he can to once again reduce infection rates and rising hospitalizations. Jacksonville’s infection and hospitalization rates are well below those in Miami-Dade County in the southeast corner of the state.
Curry took political fire for the RNC decision to move to Jacksonville last week when a group of doctors signed a letter opposing the decision.
Though he earned a reputation for governing in a bipartisan way, Curry’s approval ratings took a hit in a recent poll from the University of North Florida, which found significant voter opposition to the event.
“National nominating conventions are polarizing events, and unsurprisingly the levels of support for Jacksonville hosting the RNC varies dramatically by partisanship,” Michael Binder, director of the Jacksonville-based university’s Public Opinion Research Lab, said.