The mandatory mask policy, which will take effect at 5 p.m. local time on Monday, may potentially intrude on US President Donald Trump’s plans to hold the Republican National Convention in the city in August.
On June 11, the Republican National Committee (RNC) announced that Trump’s acceptance speech as the party’s nominee would take place in Jacksonville.
"We are thrilled to celebrate this momentous occasion in the great city of Jacksonville," RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel said in a statement at the time, The Hill reported. "Not only does Florida hold a special place in President Trump’s heart as his home state, but it is crucial in the path to victory in 2020."
Trump is expected to give his speech on August 27 at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, which can accommodate about 15,000 people.
The event was originally going to be held in Charlotte, North Carolina, but much of it was eventually moved to Jacksonville after North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper and Trump could not agree on restrictions that would need to be enforced, given the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to The Hill, Trump was against socially distancing attendees or requiring them to wear masks. In addition, he opposed the idea of crowd size restrictions.
Some official matters of the convention will still be handled in Charlotte, but most speeches and other public events will take place in Jacksonville, the GOP official said.
The mask policy goes into effect as Florida has seen steep surges in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. According to the Florida Department of Health, there were 5,409 new cases of the virus confirmed in the state on Sunday. Since June 26, the state has experienced record-breaking numbers of new daily cases, with the highest tally being almost 10,000 on June 26.
In response to the surging number of cases, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation last week banned alcohol consumption at bars. However, restaurants that sell food are still allowed to provide alcohol to customers seated at tables.
In a statement to the Independent, Florida Business and Professional Regulations Secretary Halsey Beshears said that the number of bars in the state breaking the rules had overwhelmed inspectors since the establishments were permitted to reopen some three weeks ago at 50% capacity, with tables 6 feet apart and with no crowding at areas such as bars or dance floors allowed.
“This was more than we could keep up with,” Beshears said, noting that people are tired of quarantining at home.