JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The last time James Hardy would ever see his big brother, Michael, was at his grandmother’s funeral in Mobile, Alabama. The two rode together to the funeral and stayed in the hotel together for the weekend.
“We spent probably more than 10 to 12 hours a day together in those four days,” Hardy said.
It was precious time he would never have again.
On June 7, his brother returned to Jacksonville for work as a road supervisor for JTA’s Connexion bus service, which transports the elderly and people with disabilities. He was employed with contractor MV Transportation, Inc. The company touts safe, reliable, affordable transportation services to cities and counties across America.
Ten days later, James Hardy said, his older brother was not feeling well. He said his brother told him over the phone that he was going to call out of work.
“I think the comment he made was, I feel like I’m trying to shake this flu,” James Hardy said.
He said his brother was scheduled to go back to work the next Sunday, but he was feeling worse.
“He didn’t want to be there,” James Hardy said.
To be clear, Hardy is employed with MV Transportation Inc. MV confirms the employee worked Sunday, June 21.
James Hardy says his older brother went to Lot J after his shift on Sunday to be tested for novel coronavirus.
Hardy said there his brother, Michael, was given a blood test to check for antibodies, which according to the CDC can show if you have had a past infection with the virus that causes COVID-19, and a swab test for COVID-19. The result for the swab test could take several days to several weeks to be delivered, but the results of the antibody tests are given on-site.
The oldest Hardy told his brother over the phone after waiting in line for close to two hours that he learned he was positive for COVID-19 antibodies.
“He said, ‘Man, I have some bad news. I have been diagnosed with the coronavirus,” James Hardy said.
MV Transportation said they too learned that Sunday of Hardy’s positive diagnosis.
“I said, ‘Man, I love you.’ He said, ‘I love you, too,’” James Hardy told News4Jax.
“That was the last time I talked to him,” he continued. “The very next day I got a call that he passed away. It happened so quick.”
Both MV Transportation Inc. and Hardy’s family said he died from complications due to COVID-19.
MV Transportation Inc. said the death of the Connexion employee is the first positive diagnosis and death experienced by the MV team. The company said it has had more than 66 positive COVID-19 cases across the country. It confirmed four employees have died, not including the death of Michael Hardy.
MV Transportation says the day they learned about the positive diagnosis they began their response protocol. MV said it began conducting detailed contact tracing to identify all team members, JTA staff and, if applicable, members of the public, who may have come in contact. Each of those people were then put on 14-day self-isolation, per CDC guidelines, and told to contact their personal healthcare providers if they experienced COVID-19 related symptoms.
The company said it also gave written notice to all MV employees as they arrived to work and immediately sanitized the vehicles and facilities.
The IAM & AW District 12 President Reginald Dixon represents employees with MV Transporation Inc. in Jacksonville. Dixon says as a road supervisor, Hardy could have potentially had contact with 20 to 30 bus operators if he was the only supervisor in the yard at check-in.
Dixon says he was notified by one of his union stewards of the death of Hardy on Tuesday morning.
“At that time, I immediately called JTA and MV and asked them were they aware of it,” said Dixon. “I also called MV to make sure that MV notified all the employees and make sure those that were in contact with him were able to get tested.”
Hardy’s death comes the same week as Florida sets a new one-day record for COVID-19 cases in the state. State health officials reported 5,500 positive test as of Wednesday morning.
Hardy’s death also comes as the Jacksonville Sheriffs Office announced a number of COVID-19 cases reported within the Duval County jail. A total of 20 inmates have tested positive, and 17 jail employees are in self-quarantine, Undersheriff Pat Ivey said Monday.
Hardy’s brother, James, says their family is in a state of shock after learning of the sharp, and quick decline in Michaels health.
Two weeks after burying their grandmother, the family is planning for another funeral – and a memorial in Jacksonville, where their brother lived for more than 20 years.
“Mike was a, he was a solid guy. You know, you have some people that are frail and sickly. Mike was not that guy,” said James Hardy. “He was a laughable, lovable guy. When you thought about Mike your thoughts were always positive.”