JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Mayor Lenny Curry has chosen to allow Duval County’s mask mandate to expire this week.
Since June, Curry had maintained a mandate that required anyone over the age of 6 to continue to wear a mask or face covering while in indoor public spaces, including employees and business customers within city limits, with certain exceptions.
The mandate had followed guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that even after receiving a vaccine, people should wear masks to prevent the possible spread of COVID-19.
“From the beginning of the pandemic, the decisions I made were based on data. I have worked with hospital leaders, researchers, emergency management, and more to make decisions that will help keep our community safe. At this time, based on current data, I have decided to lift the mask mandate that requires masks to be worn indoors, in public spaces, where you cannot be six feet away, “Curry said in a statement.
Curry said that even though he decided to lift the mandate, companies can still require that customers wear masks.
“This action shows that we are one step closer to returning to normalcy, but we have not yet achieved it,” he said. “I encourage citizens to continue to take personal responsibility and make decisions that they believe best protect themselves, their loved ones and neighbors. Wear a mask when you can’t socially distance yourself, wash your hands often, and if you’re eligible, I encourage you to get vaccinated. “
News4Jax checked with some local businesses on their plans now that the mask mandate has been removed.
Brent Boger, whose family has owned a Five Points shoe store for more than 50 years, said it’s a positive step, but since most of his customers are older, he plans to keep his mask and will ask his customers to do the same. .
“As my clients feel more comfortable and secure, I will continue to do it just for them,” said Boger.
In the bars, the reactions were as varied as the cocktails, some bartenders told us they would still need masks and others said no.
Winn-Dixie grocery stores plan to continue to require masks, but the public library is a city building, so you will no longer have to wear a mask there or at City Hall. But it is highly recommended that you continue to do so anyway.
Jessica Beckford, manager of BB’s Restaurant and Bar in San Marco, says customers will still need to wear masks when entering the restaurant. She says her employees will continue to use them while they work.
“We will continue to do what we are doing regardless of the expiration of the mask’s term,” Beckford said. “We want to make sure we keep our masks on to keep everyone safe.”
Michael Dowie, general manager of the Shim Sham Room in Jacksonville Beach, says his customers and employees no longer need to wear a mask.
“We’re still practicing safe measurements, you know, make sure everything is clean,” Dowie said.
According to data released Friday by the Florida Department of Health, 2,033,179 people in the state have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, and 33,116 residents and visitors have died from the virus.
In Duval County, 92,022 people have been diagnosed with coronavirus, as of Friday, and 1,287 people have died.
Statewide, 5,475,209 people have been vaccinated so far, 214,200 of them in Duval County.
Baptist Health’s Dr. Elizabeth Ransom said that while the number of COVID-19 cases is declining and more people are getting vaccinated, the virus has not gone away and masks shouldn’t go away.
“It really is a little race between the vaccine and the variants,” Ransom said. “So I think we keep our vigilance and continue to wear a mask.
The Duval County Medical Society said:
“While we understand that the mask mandate for Duval County has expired, the Duval County Medical Society and its Foundation strongly encourage continued social distancing, mask use and hand washing as ways to mitigate the spread of COVID19. We also strongly encourage everyone to receive a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as they are eligible to keep you and our entire community safe as we approach the end of the pandemic. “
Florida never instituted a statewide mask mandate, and Governor Ron DeSantis prevented local governments from enforcing its rules regarding mask mandates.
While there was no enforcement power with the Jacksonville mandate, some companies said it gave them something to fall back on when clients disagreed with the policy.
DeSantis announced Thursday that it was expanding the availability of the vaccine to anyone 40 and older in the state, starting Monday, and that any adult can be vaccinated starting April 5.
The Fernandina Beach City Commission voted on March 2 to extend his mask term until April 7. It will be reviewed at their next meeting on April 6. News4Jax did not find any other local cities with a current mask mandate in effect.
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