Thu, 16 Jul 2020

WASHINGTON - Jacksonville, Florida, the site of the U.S. Republican National Convention where President Donald Trump will be nominated for a second term, Monday issued an order making it mandatory for people there to wear face masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

However, the city said it was too soon to know whether the order would still be in effect when thousands of Republicans gather for the August 24-27 convention, where Trump is set to make his nomination acceptance speech on the last day.

The order marked a turn for Mayor Lenny Curry, a former Florida state Republican chairman, who has voiced his opposition to a mandatory face mask order on ideological grounds even as he has said that wearing a face mask is "the responsible thing."

News4Jax, a Jacksonville television station, a week ago quoted Curry as saying, "Wearing a mask is not a political statement. It's about protecting yourself and your loved ones and your neighbors."

Jacksonville's about-face came as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases surged in Florida, which Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has blamed on young people without face masks crowding into bars and other social gathering hubs while also ignoring the recommendations of health experts to socially distance themselves at least two meters from other people.

Trump has been reluctant to embrace wearing face masks, saying he did not see it for himself. Trump recently said he did not want to give the press corps the satisfaction of seeing him wearing one.

However, his spokeswoman, Kayleigh McEnany, said Monday that Trump has "no problem" with people wearing them.

"It's a personal choice whatever they choose to do," McEnany said Trump believes, even as U.S. government officials encourage people to wear masks, especially inside buildings and if they cannot socially distance themselves from others outside.

She said Trump "would encourage" Americans to follow the recommendations of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local officials throughout the country to take safety measures to protect themselves and curb the spread of the virus.

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