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Jacksonville making masks mandatory weeks before hosting RNC

Coronavirus

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (WFLA) — The City of Jacksonville, the site of this year’s Republican National Convention, will start mandating masks Monday evening.

According to a post on the City of Jacksonville Facebook page, the mandate goes into effect at 5 p.m. Masks will be required in “public and indoor locations” and wherever social distancing cannot be practiced.

“Health care experts advise that masks and cloth face coverings that help slow the spread from individuals with COVID-19 to vulnerable populations, including from those who are asymptomatic,” city officials said in the post. “We continue to urge everyone to practice personal responsibility and do their part to help stop the spread of this virus.”

The mandate announced by city officials Monday afternoon comes as new cases of coronavirus continue to increase by the thousands each day in Florida. More than 5,000 new cases were announced by the Department of Health Monday morning.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday doubled down on his decision to not implement a statewide mask mandate. Instead, he said he’s trusting people to make good decisions.

Without a statewide mandate, some counties and cities – including several in the Tampa Bay area – have decided to pass their own ordinances to mandate masks locally.

“We’ve advised from the beginning of May about situations where that would be appropriate but we’ve left it to the locals about whether they want to use coercive measures or impose any type of criminal penalties,” Gov. DeSantis said Monday. “We’re not going to do that statewide but we wanted to have a collaborative effort with the locals from the beginning. Different areas have handled this differently based on their facts and circumstances.”

Monday’s announcement also comes just weeks before the Republican National Convention is set to take place. Earlier this month, it was announced that this year’s convention was moving to Jacksonville.

The convention was originally supposed to take place in Charlotte, North Carolina. President Donald Trump and the GOP decided to move the convention after Democratic North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said the GOP couldn’t hold a full-scale rally in Charlotte over coronavirus concerns.

When asked if the mask mandate would impact the convention, DeSantis declined to comment.

“We’re just focusing on the budget, we’re focused on this,” the governor said as he turned to leave.

White House Press Secretary and Tampa native Kayleigh McEnany was also asked about the mandate and if President Trump would wear a mask.

“It’s his choice to wear a mask, it’s a personal choice,” she said. “He encourages people to make whatever decision is best for their safety but he did say to me he has no problems with masks and to do whatever your local jurisdiction requests of you.”

The RNC plans to hold the president’s acceptance speech of the Republican nomination in Florida while still holding official convention business in North Carolina.

The convention is scheduled to begin Aug. 24 and wrap up on Aug. 27. Monday’s announcement from the City of Jacksonville did not mention how long the mask mandate will be in effect, so it’s not clear yet if masks will be mandated at the RNC.

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