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'I just want information': Mayor Curry expresses frustration with Florida Health Department

Mayor Lenny Curry says lack of information unnecessarily exposed five first responders to an infected patient, requiring them to be quarantined.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Given the global spread of the coronavirus, it wasn’t exactly a surprise that Duval County finally had its first confirmed case Thursday night. But the announcement was a surprise to Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, who wasn’t notified of the case before it was announced by the Florida Department of Health.

This followed Curry’s public promise to let county residents know as soon as there was a case.

“Currently there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus in Duval County,” he said just eight hours before the DOH announcement. “I committed to you last week that if and when we get a positive diagnosis, we will share that with you, so the people of Duval County know. We are going to share information as we get it.”

Curry made his displeasure known via Twitter soon after the DOH released the information.

“I told the public I would share the 1st and any #Coronavirus positive w them when Florida Dept of Health shared it with me & my team. They did not. I am disappointed to have learned about the 1st test via the news. Transparency & communication is the way forward for our citizens.”

He continued the Twitter thread: “We must share what we know with the public @HealthyFla. None of our city emergency professionals were advised of this positive.”

Curry reiterated his frustration at Friday morning’s press conference, saying the Health Department's information silo put EMTs who responded to the patient in unnecessary peril.

“Last night when first responders arrived on the scene, they had no indication the patient was possibly infected with COVID-19,” he said in his prepared remarks. “Since the first responders were exposed without personal protective equipment, all five are now in quarantine.”

He continued, “Without having consistent information as to how many people are monitored, tested or need to be tested, I have to act unilaterally, perhaps with actions that may be criticized later.”

The mayor was asked about the fact he wasn’t informed about before the case was announced. “I just want information. I want information so I can make decisions with that information," he said, "...And I want to be able to share that info with the public.”

Curry said he wanted the city to be able to do its own testing, and has asked about taking more control over the process.

First Coast News reached out to the Health Department for comment. In a statement, a spokesperson said, "We are continuing to work with the city of Jacksonville to protect the health of the people in Jacksonville."

When asked about the matter, the Mayor’s Office issued this statement:

“We don’t have any further comments other than to say that we are hopeful that moving forward, we will be notified of positive cases in Duval County before the media. We are required to make important decisions that affect people’s lives and families. When we don’t have all the facts in a timely manner, that greatly impacts our ability to respond and protect our City.”

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