Jacksonville, host of summer GOP convention, requires masks

Jacksonville, host of summer GOP convention, requires masks

  • Updated

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — The city of Jacksonville, where President Donald Trump is expected to accept the Republican nomination in his bid for re-election, on Monday enacted a mandatory mask requirement for public and indoor locations and places where social distancing is not possible.

Mayor Larry Curry, a Republican and avid supporter of the president, last week had declared he would not require masks, a move that made Jacksonville an attractive location to Trump, who has mostly refused to wear one. Republicans and Trump moved the Republican National Convention to Florida after Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina refused to guarantee the event could be held in Charlotte without restrictions because of the coronavirus pandemic.

It's unclear if Jacksonville's mask mandate will still be in place by the time of the Republican convention on Aug. 25-27 at Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena, which holds 15,000 people.

The mask requirement was to take effect at 5 p.m. No end date for the mask-wearing requirement was announced. Curry, who was not in attendance at a Monday news conference due to family obligations, could not be reached for comment.

“We continue to urge everybody, please practice personal responsibility, do your part to please help stop the spread of this virus,” said city spokeswoman Nikki Kimbleton.

She said city leaders reached the decision to require masks after consulting local health officials and that penalties for noncompliance were under discussion.

Meanwhile, a group of nearly 500 Florida-based doctors — many from northeast Florida — signed an open letter to Curry calling for the convention to be postponed. The letter, which was given to Curry over the weekend, also urged officials to require masks.

“It is extremely dangerous and contrary to current public health recommendations to stage a large event in an area where the number of cases is surging. The RNC should be postponed or very significantly reduced in numbers because of these risks,” the open letter states.

About 5,800 total cases of coronavirus have been reported in Duval County, where Jacksonville is located, and 64 deaths.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was asked about the move Monday.

“We’ve advised from the beginning of May about situations where that would be appropriate, but we’ve left it to the locals about whether they want to use coercive measures or impose any criminal penalties,” he said.

During a daily briefing, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany was asked about the Jacksonville order and whether Trump’s thinking about wearing a mask had changed at all, given the vote in Jacksonville and given increased virus cases in Florida, Arizona and elsewhere.

McEnany said she had talked to the president before the briefing to get his thinking and “it’s the personal choice of any individual as to whether to wear a mask or not. He encourages people to make whatever decision is best for their safety but he did say to me he has no problem with masks and to do whatever your local jurisdiction requests of you."

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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