Jacksonville’s mayor lifts mask mandate

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A big change took place in the city of Jacksonville, as Mayor Lenny Curry announced Friday that the mask mandate has been lifted.

He says businesses can still require people to wear masks. The order applied to indoor and public spaces where people couldn’t avoid being six feet apart.

Action News Jax asked people in downtown Jacksonville and at the beaches for their take on the decision; the responses were mixed.

”We’ve got elders; people might still be contagious,” one man said.

He worries the lifted mandate will put the elderly at greater risk of catching COVID-19.

Others, like Tara Stanek, are happy to be one step closer to normal.

”A lot of people here in Jacksonville and at the beach areas, we took it serious, and we did it, and I’m glad it’s over,” Stanek said.

Mayor Curry said his decision is based on data, after having received the green light from health experts.

Action News Jax got immunologist Dr. Sunil Joshi’s take: “I don’t think that’s the correct message,” Joshi said. “Our biggest concern is that people might think this is a sign that they can be a little more loose with wearing their mask out in public.”

Joshi encourages people to continue wearing their masks.

While the mayor says businesses are still allowed to require face coverings, some, like Wreck owner Fernando Mezza, welcome the mayor’s decision, saying, “We are happy it has been lifted, and of course, if customers or staff members want to wear a mask they are welcome to do so. Another step to normalcy and hopefully a great economic year for our service industry.”

The city told Action News Jax the mayor still suggests people wear masks, but that it’s no longer a requirement.

In a statement released Friday he said, “Since the start of the pandemic, the decisions I’ve made have been based on data. I’ve worked with hospital leadership, 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 be worn indoors, in public spaces, where you could not be six feet apart. While I am lifting the City mandate, businesses can still require individuals to wear a mask. This action demonstrates that we are another step closer to getting back to normal, but we are not there yet. I encourage citizens to continue to take personal responsibility and make choices that they feel best protect themselves, their loved ones, and neighbors. Wear a mask when you can’t social distance, wash your hands frequently and, if you are eligible, I encourage you to get the vaccine.” 

Action News Jax reached out to city leaders at the beaches to see if they were part of the decision and for their take on it; we’re waiting to hear back from them.

COVID-19 has not gone away just yet — according to the Florida Department of Health’s website, yesterday there were 112 reported cases in Duval County, three in Nassau, one in Bradford, one in Baker, 43 in St. Johns, 24 in Clay, and none in Union.

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