ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) – The city of Jacksonville, where President Donald Trump is expected to accept the Republican nomination in his reelection bid, set a mandatory mask requirement for public and indoor locations and places where social distance is not possible on Monday.
Republican Mayor Larry Curry, an avid Trump supporter, had just declared last week that he wouldn’t need masks. His position made the North Florida city an attractive location for Trump, who usually refused to wear one.
Republicans and Trump moved the Republican National Convention to Florida after North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper declined to guarantee that the event could be held in Charlotte without restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s unclear whether the Jacksonville Mask Mandate will still be in effect during the August 25-27 GOP convention at the Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena, which can seat 15,000 people.
The mask requirement went into effect at 5:00 PM and no end date was announced. Curry, who did not attend Monday’s press conference due to family obligations, was not available for comment.
“We continue to urge everyone, please exercise personal responsibility, do your bit to help stop the spread of this virus,” said city spokeswoman Nikki Kimbleton.
She said that after consultation with local health officials, city leaders decided to wear masks and discussed sanctions for non-compliance.
Recently, a group of nearly 500 Florida-based physicians – many from northeast Florida – signed an open letter to Curry calling for the convention to be postponed. The letter, sent to Curry last weekend, also urged officials to demand masks.
“It is extremely dangerous and contrary to current public health recommendations to host a major event in an area where the number of cases is increasing dramatically. Because of these risks, the RNC has to be postponed or significantly reduced, “said the open letter.
About 5,800 overall positive cases of the coronavirus have been reported in Duval County, where Jacksonville is located, as well as 64 deaths.
On Monday, the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department said that according to the Florida Times-Union, more than 230 workers were self-quarantined and 33 had been tested positive for the virus.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was asked on Monday about Jacksonville’s order.
“We advised on situations where this would be appropriate from the beginning of May, but we left it to the local people to take coercive measures or impose criminal sanctions,” said the governor.
During a daily briefing, White House press chief Kayleigh McEnany was asked about Jacksonville’s demand and whether Trump’s thinking about wearing a mask had changed at all, given the mood in Jacksonville and the increased virus cases in Florida, Arizona and elsewhere.
McEnany said she had spoken to the President before the briefing to get him thinking and “it is an individual’s personal choice whether or not to wear a mask. He encourages people to make the best decision for their safety, but he said he has no problem with masks and does what your local jurisdiction requires of you. ‘
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