Duval County

‘Over 500’ medical staffers have signed letter that demanded mask mandate, RNC changes, of Jacksonville leaders

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — In a letter sent to Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Jacksonville’s City Council on Sunday, local doctors called the decision to host the Republican National Convention “medically disrespectful.”

In the letter, the doctors also demanded a mask mandate in the city of Jacksonville and that the RNC either be postponed or downsized.

On Monday, the city of Jacksonville mandated that masks be worn in public indoor spaces where social distancing is not possible forfor people 6 years old and older. The city said the letter is not why the mask mandate was announced Monday.

The letter was co-authored by Nancy Staats, MD, Alan Halperin, MD and Carl Burak, MD, JD.

Action News Jax reporter Ryan Nelson spoke to Staats Monday. Staats told Nelson there have been at least 500 online signatures from medical personnel. Action News Jax reported Saturday about 200 medical personnel had co-signed the letter prior to it being sent directly to Curry and the members of City Council.

“We’re having trouble keeping up truly. I know of over 500. We did have people that may have signed more than once, but not a large number,” Staats said. “I wanted this to be physician only, and I was pretty clear in that, even having said that, we’ve had nurse practitioners, advanced practice nurses, a few. I’m talking about one or two dozen total.”

Action News Jax medical expert Dr. Michelle Aquino was among the medical personnel who signed the letter.

Many of the signatures show locations from around Northeast Florida while others are from across the state of Florida. Some of the co-signatures appear to come from other states, including California and Michigan.

“We penned the letter on Thursday, I started distributing it to doctors on Friday, and I had hoped to send it to Mayor and City Council today, but interestingly there was like an immediate response and a lot of interest,” Staats said.

She shared her immediate reaction to the city’s mask mandate.

“Thank you, Mayor Curry, on behalf of everyone who signed this letter. I, we are so sincerely grateful, and I’m so grateful that this will not only protect citizens, but workers, first responders, our valuable medical staff,” Staats said.

City of Jacksonville Director of Public Affairs, Nikki Kimbleton, held a news briefing around noon Monday in which she announced the mask mandate and addressed the letter sent to the city.

“We did not receive that letter from the physicians until around 4 p.m. yesterday,” Kimbleton said.

She said the city would be responding to the letter’s authors.

“We do talk with these CEOs and hospital administrators from some of the top hospitals in the country, and we’re talking to them daily. Mayor Curry is in constant contact with them as well as other members of our staff,” Kimbleton said.

Nelson asked Staats if she and the other doctors were still demanding changes to the convention in Jacksonville now that a mask mandate had been implemented. Staats said it’s a position they’ll continue to evaluate and monitor as the as the convention nears.

“I would hope we just engage in continued safe behaviors. If the mask rule is still in effect, it needs to be followed by everyone,” Staats said.

Nelson also asked Staats if the decision to draft and send the letter to the city was politically motivated.

“I promised to everyone who signed it that this is not a political agenda. We are here for safety,” Staats said. “… [COVID-19] has done serious damage to so many people, and killed so many people already, and we need to wrap our hands around it.”

Action News Jax noticed what appeared to be a signature reading “Fake Name, MD,” in the list of signatures.

Nelson contacted Staats asking if she and the co-authors of the letter were aware of the fake signature. She said she and other doctors were aware and had been working actively to delete fake and duplicate names in the list of signatures. She went on to say they were actively trying to verify the identities of the names who co-signed the letter.

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