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Jax Daily Record Friday, Mar. 13, 202003:15 PM EST

Curry closes city event venues

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Jacksonville parks are shut down and “Hamilton” is “not happening.”
by: Mike Mendenhall Staff Writer

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry ordered all city-sponsored events canceled and all city-owned event venues closed indefinitely in response to the growing spread of the new coronavirus. 

The list includes The Times-Union Center for Performing Arts, VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, TIAA Bank Field, 121 Financial Ballpark and the Prime Osborn Convention Center. Curry said the closures extend to city parks and libraries and the Jacksonville Zoo.

During a March 13 news conference in the City Hall atrium, Curry said his unilateral steps are to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, in Duval County.

“I have a mission and job to do. We as city officials all have a mission and a job to do and that is to make sure the people and families of Duval County, Jacksonville, Florida are safe,” Curry said.

“The way we’re going to do that is slow the spread of the coronavirus and, eventually, eradicate the spread,” he said.

Curry instructed city departments to suspend permits for large gatherings in city parks and public places through the end of March. 

The mayor announced the Broadway musical “Hamilton,” scheduled for a March 17-29 run at the Times-Union Center, is “not happening.”

On its website March 13, The Times-Union Center told “Hamilton” attendees to hold onto their tickets, as the venue will push to get the show to return to Jacksonville.  

City Hall and other municipal administrative buildings will remain open, but Curry encouraged people to “minimize their in-person transactions at government buildings” and use online methods to file documents and pay bills when possible.

“We strongly encourage businesses and organizations to take similar actions,” he said. “We’re not mandating any of this currently, but we want people to be cautious and thoughtful.”

Curry did not declare an official state of emergency March 13, but the mayor said he could reconsider that position as the state of the coronavirus evolves. He said he is in contact with the Jacksonville Port Authority, Jacksonville Aviation Authority and JEA about their operations. 

In a March 12 tweet, Curry shared his frustration with the speed of information coming from the Florida Department of Health. He wrote he was disappointed his administration learned of the first positive case in Duval County from local media. 

The mayor’s news conference came less than 24 hours after the first case of the new virus was confirmed in Duval County.

Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department Chief Keith Powers said March 13 that the 83-year-old patient was a resident at a Town Center-area assisted living center. Because of the federal HIPAA law, Powers did not release the name of the facility during the news briefing.

The patient is being treated at Memorial Hospital, according to Daily Record news partner News4Jax.com.

Five first responders who were dispatched to the facility have been quarantined. Curry said the responders were not aware the patient was infected with the virus and were not wearing the proper protective gear to prevent infection from exposure when they arrived.

City Council President Scott Wilson said he will coordinate with the administration before deciding whether to hold scheduled Council committee and board meetings over the next two weeks. 

Wilson said he will issue a news release with that information.

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