Curry says planning underway for ‘safe and responsible’ GOP convention

The mayor says the uptick in Duval COVID-19 cases is because of increased testing.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry conducts his virtual news conference June 16.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry conducts his virtual news conference June 16.
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Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said city officials told the national GOP that there will be “a full-scale” Republican National Convention in August.

At a virtual news conference June 16, Curry said the city’s assurances to the Republican National Committee were based on COVID-19 trends in Duval County and convention safety protocols in development.

The mayor said city officials are drafting health and safety measures to limit the risk of COVID-19 transmission inside a capacity VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, the venue for President Donald Trump’s GOP nomination acceptance.

“We have health experts that will be working with my team as we begin thinking about what the inside of the arena will look like,” Curry said. “We’re creating it. Again, we got awarded this convention days ago. Now the planning has started to do it in a safe and responsible way.” 

Curry said temperature checks are planned for points of entry at the convention. 

COVID-19 in Duval

The mayor said he called the news conference to calm citizen fears that COVID-19 transmission is climbing again in Duval County.

“That is not the story the data is telling us,” Curry said.

Lynch’s Irish Pub, The Wreck Tiki Lounge and The Tavern bars in Jacksonville Beach closed voluntarily because of cases of COVID-19 among employees and customers, Daily Record news partner reported June 15.

Duval County reported 80 new COVID-19 cases in a 24-hour period June 16, up from the previous daily high of 56, according to 

Curry acknowledged the increase and attributed it to increased testing.

He said the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests shows Duval County has flattened the curve.

Duval County’s positive test rate of 2.9% reported June 16 is up from 2.47% on June 7 and 1.36% on May 31. About 70,000 tests have been administered in Duval County, according to the city.

The low for the percentage of positive COVID-19 test results was 1.2% on May 17 and the county’s peak was 6.3% on April 6.

The Florida Department of Health reports 2,112 cumulative total cases in Duval County and 80,109 statewide since tracking began in February.

Curry said declining COVID-19 hospitalization rates and patient transports by the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department show Jacksonville is ready to host a large-scale event like the RNC.

The mayor said the city would consider modifying protocols for the Aug. 24-27 convention if COVID-19 data in August worsens.

“Nothing in life is certain. If things change, if this virus takes an unexpected turn, we’ll adapt accordingly at the time. But we are planning in accordance with our trend lines right now and that is getting back to work, protecting the vulnerable, protecting our health care system and getting back to normal in a safe, responsible way,” Curry said.

“Indefinitely quarantining is not an option. There were financial outcomes there that were hurtful to people and families (and) additional health outcomes that were negative — people who weren’t going to the hospital for necessary things,” Curry said. 

Federal guidance

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new COVID-19 guidance June 12 that describes large gatherings as a high-risk activity to spreading the virus. The CDC defines the highest-risk events as “Large in-person gatherings where it is difficult for individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and attendees travel from outside the local area.” 

Curry argued that, with the RNC two months away, the city will plan with available trend lines.

“Following the logic of not planning events because the CDC guidelines suggest that large gatherings are the most risk, those guidelines are going to exist until we have a vaccine and until the virus is no longer with us,” Curry said. “So, if you follow that to its logical conclusion, cities just wouldn’t plan any events. There would be no more events planned. We would just pretend there is no getting back to some sense of normal.” 

Curry said that the intent of city and state government COVID-19 mandates, like his work-from-home executive order lifted May 18, was to reduce the strain on hospital capacity and “flatten the curve.”

He said the emphasis should now move to individual behaviors like wearing a face mask in public, frequent hand-washing, social distancing “when able” and eliminating exposure to seniors and people with vulnerable immune systems.

“I would ask the media to be responsible in communicating to people that was the goal. Don’t move the goalposts, OK? If some in the media is suggesting we should be quarantining because there’s positive cases in our city, that suggestion is ridiculous. People would be out of jobs, people would have to face other health risks. … We have to learn to live with this in a safe and responsible way.”




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