June 27, 2020 [Google doc, reportedly signed by about 200 physicians many from Florida]

Physicians' Letter to Jacksonville Mayor Requesting Masks and Social Distancing at RNC

Dear Mayor Curry and Jacksonville City Council:

Recent statistics show that the number of Covid-19 infections and hospitalizations are increasing in Florida, including Jacksonville. As the economy has opened up, the number of Covid -19 cases in Jacksonville has increased substantially; local restaurants and bars have had to close again because of this. Florida, Texas, and California are the new “hot spots” for Covid-19.

As physicians, we have trained many years for one purpose – to help cure the sick and diminish suffering. We are very concerned. This is a new virus, and we unfortunately have neither a vaccine, nor a particularly effective treatment. The good news is that both the Florida Surgeon General and the CDC have guidelines for reducing spread of the virus: maintain social distancing of 6 feet and wear a face mask in any public space, unless outdoors, and strictly adhere to social distancing. In addition, both recommend no groups of more than 50 people should gather, and particularly not indoors.

Unfortunately, for some, a face mask has become a political statement. This is irrational and meant to sow division. The enemy is this virus, not each other. There are ways of encouraging compliance short of making it a criminal offense, and it’s working in hundreds of cities worldwide.

The Republican National Convention (RNC) is scheduled in Jacksonville for late August. It is estimated that more than 40,000 people, including the press and protestors, will attend from all over the US. Allowing this number of people to descend on Jacksonville is unequivocally provocative of disease, predictably harmful, and medically disrespectful to the citizens of this city, much less the rest of the country. There will be increased hospitalizations, long-term health problems, and deaths. At greatest risk are our most vulnerable populations: the poor, the elderly, and those with underlying conditions. Others most likely to be affected include our health care workers at all levels, our first responders, our service workers, and airport workers.

It is extremely dangerous and contrary to current public health recommendations to stage a large event in an area where the number of cases is surging. The RNC should be postponed or very significantly reduced in numbers because of these risks. In addition, Jacksonville should follow the leads of Miami, Tampa, Orlando, and other cities in Florida, along with Texas and California, in immediately (before a convention) mandating the use of masks and social distancing.