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Jacksonville infectious disease expert: ‘I think we’re prematurely opening up the beaches’

A survey shows that 15% of Jacksonville residents reported COVID-19 symptoms last week

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville infectious disease specialist who is studying the spread of COVID-19 in Duval County said the decision made by Mayor Lenny Curry to reopen Jacksonville’s beaches for physical activity on Friday was not the right move.

“I think we’re prematurely opening up the beaches,” said Dr. Mohammed Reza. “The way I can describe it is, I prescribe you a prescription for 10 days for a bacterial infection. You take that for two or three days and you’re feeling better, ‘Oh, I don’t need to take it anymore.’ That’s exactly what we’re doing at this point. This is scary because that infection will get a lot worse and come back with a vengeance. We know this from other countries.”

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Dr. Reza is part of a team of other medical professionals who founded COVIDIQ.org, a non-profit dedicated to better tracking and understanding the novel coronavirus and the impact it’s having on communities.

Since COVIDIQ.org launched April 2, nearly 500 people throughout Jacksonville have participated in the nationwide survey.

The data collected is eye-opening.

“In Duval County, from April 9 through April 16, the number of people that reported symptoms consistent with COVID19 has gone from 11 percent to now 15 percent,” Reza said. “That’s close to over 40,000 people who have started developing symptoms.”

Dr. Reza is aware that the estimate is much higher than the number that has been reported by the Florida Department of Health. According to data released Sunday morning by the Department of Health, 847 people in Jacksonville have tested positive for COVID-19.

But Reza said the disconnect is happening because most areas don’t have accessibility to adequate testing.

“We don’t have that antibody testing we need,” he said. “This virus is a lot more spread throughout our communities than what we’re picking up at this point.”

To participate in the free and confidential viral syndrome surveillance survey, go to COVIDIQ.org or text “TOGETHER” to 203-204-9964. Questions on the survey include gender, age, ethnicity, symptoms and zip code. Those without symptoms are also encouraged to participate.

“We’re following people every five days and seeing if they develop symptoms,” Reza said. “You can text “update” and receive real-time data from Johns Hopkins University to let you know in your county what the rate of infection is.”

The data collected is based on major and minor criteria.

  • Major: Fever, cough, shortness of breath
  • Minor: Headache; fatigue; loss of appetite, sense of smell and taste; body aches and sore throat; diarrhea

Dr. Reza said having or developing two major criteria, a combination of one major and two minor criteria or three minor criteria is concerning.

Dr. Reza said people need to remain vigilant and practice safe and healthy social distancing.


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