June 29 (UPI) — The city of Jacksonville, Fla., announced a mandatory mask requirement for public and indoor locations on Monday ahead of its plans to host the 2020 Republican National Convention.
The city’s official Twitter account posted an announcement on Monday afternoon declaring the policy would go into effect at 5 p.m. Monday, requiring the use of masks for public and indoor locations and “other situations where individuals cannot socially distance.”
“Healthcare experts advise that masks and cloth face coverings help slow the spread from individuals with COVID-19 to vulnerable populations, including from those who are asymptomatic,” Nikki Kimbleton, the city’s director of public affairs, said during a press conference. “We continue to urge everyone please practice personal responsibility and do you part ant please help stop the spread of this virus.”
The announcement comes after about 200 Florida doctors signed an open letter to Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, a Republican, over the weekend saying the city’s decision to host the RNC — which is expected to draw as many as 40,000 attendees — is “medically disrespectful to citizens” amid the pandemic.
Curry’s chief of staff, Jordan Elsbury, noted that the RNC is still 60 days away and the state would adopt plans in accordance with the effects of the pandemic in the area.
“We will continue to monitor data and make informed decisions as time goes on to protect our people, but the policy is in place today,” said Elsbury.
The Republican National Committee announced its convention would move to Jacksonville after North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, whose state was originally set to host the event, told the committee it would not be able to host a full-scale event due to restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Florida has reported a surge in coronavirus cases in the following weeks, including a single-day record of 9,585 new cases on Saturday, rising to fifth in the nation with a total of 146,341 positive cases, the state health department reported.
While RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said “official business” at the convention will still be held in North Carolina, President Donald Trump — who has repeatedly refused to wear masks in public — will give his acceptance speech as the Republican nominee at Jacksonville’s VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.