JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – We went through a lot in 2020. The beginning of the year was much like any other-- except social media was abuzz that 2020 was going to be a year of clarity, similar to receiving word from the eye doctor you have 20/20 vision.
The year took a turn in February when word of the coronavirus started seeping into our lives. Things got more serious when we went into quarantine in March. Tensions escalated in summer when a racial reckoning swept across the country, fueled in part by Ahmaud Arbery’s killing in Satilla Shores, Georgia.
Florida made national news throughout the whole year for its handling of the coronavirus. Nearing the end of the year now, we’re just looking forward to a year with new promise-- and a vaccine.
There was indeed no shortage of headlines in 2020. At News4Jax, we posted them all on social media. Every breaking story, every local story, and every viral video, we thought you would like or would want to see.
These stories are the ones social media users decided resonated. These are the posts you shared most, the biggest conversation starters featuring hundreds to thousands of comments, and every update that has happened since, including information never reported before now.
#10: Alcohol is banned from bars in Florida
When the coronavirus pandemic hit Florida in March, everyone’s daily routines quickly shifted. Stay-at-home orders were enacted on April 3, but cases continued to rise. State officials moved to take drastic measure to slow the spread, or “flatten the curve,” as was the popular phrase at the time.
On June 26, Florida set a state-record for most cases in a single day, 9,000 new cases. The same day State officials made an unprecedented move: The Department of Business and Professional Regulation banned alcohol consumption at all bars.
The executive order was first quietly announced from the Twitter account of Halsey Beshears, secretary for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, but once news outlets caught wind, social media exploded in reaction.
This post by News4Jax was shared more than 17,000 times and gained more than 5,500 comments, making it the No. 10 most popular for the year.
One “Top Fan” of News4Jax brought up a resonating point when he wrote, “Who the heck is the Department of Business and Professional Regulations?” Additional commenters admitted they knew little of the Florida agency that governs bars, restaurants, and hotels prior to this. At least, if nothing else, some of us can say we learned something new in 2020.
Two weeks after the ban was put into place, Florida broke a national record for the number of single cases in one day, 15,300. It wasn’t until September 14 when limited alcohol sales resumed. 11 days later the state moved into Phase 3 reopening lifting most alcohol sale restrictions.
#9: St. Augustine gets a drive-in movie theater
At times, 2020 might have felt more like 1920. This was true for the announcement of an incoming drive-in movie theater in St. Augustine, but it was exactly the good news thousands of people wanted to hear in early May. A subsequent post, 10 days later, announcing the drive-in opened was equally well-received. However, some commenters lamented upon learning the price for a ticket starts at $20 per car with drinks and snacks not included. No one comment was particularly popular, but we loved the overall nostalgic energy in the thread. One person wrote,
“When I was little my dad’s second job was GM for a drive-in. We had so much fun, watching movies, playing on playground and lots of free popcorn. My mom was the ticket seller (heart emoji)″
The theater is currently showing 12 different movies, including the new superhero sequel, Wonder Woman 1984. Some movie showings are available at a discounted $6 per car.
#8: A very special 109th birthday
In 2020, you helped Louisa Gunter feel even more special and loved. The Jacksonville woman with 9 children, 26 grandchildren, 36 great-grandchildren, and 6 great great grandchildren already had a birthday celebration planned by family, but her feature on News4Jax made it all the more memorable.
When Louisa turned 109 on May 13, 2020, more than 2,000 people wished her an extra special happy birthday in the comments. Some of our favorite birthday wishes were:
From one of our Top Fans: “Happy Birthday Mrs. Gunter! You look amazing and I pray today is awesome for you! Wishing you and your family precious memories and bountiful wisdom to be passed throughout the generations from you to come!”
Another wrote, “Happy Birthday, Beautiful! What a legacy she has with all her children, grands, great grands, and great great grands! Have a Wonderful Birthday.”
Finally this one, “Incredible!! Happy Birthday to her! That’s awesome! Bet she has a lot of interesting stories and advice.”
We’re saddened to inform you that we learned Louisa got sick and passed away on October 13. Louisa’s great-granddaughter Dacia told us that when Louisa saw all the birthday wishes from our commenters, that she loved them and really enjoyed her birthday.
Rest In Peace, Louisa.
#7: Chick-fil-A starts selling signature sauce in stores
News4Jax social media producer Carianne Luter said it best when she wrote, This is what dreams are made of. In 2020, social media users certainly agreed when News4Jax posted Chic-fil-a would start selling its Chick-fil-A and Polynesian sauces in grocery stores in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. This post was shared 18,000 times on Facebook.
The comment section is one big sign of the times, most saying, at first glance they thought the sauce bottles were hand sanitizer. At the time this was posted on March 11, hand sanitizer was nearly impossible to find. Though the Chic-fil-a signature sauce and Polynesian sauce have absolutely no disinfectant properties, their sales still contribute to a better world.
Chick-fil-A said 100% of the royalties received from select third-party retailers went toward scholarships for employees. Sales from the pilot program in Florida alone funded scholarships for 250 restaurant employees, according to Chic-fil-a spokesperson.
#6: National Drink Wine Day
Did you enjoy celebrating this in 2020? Good news. This holiday is back on the horizon, soon to be celebrated again on February 18. When News4Jax posted this story, the coronavirus was still a distant concept -- something being dealt with across the pond, but not in Florida. In fact, some Floridians were still working out that the coronavirus had nothing to do with a different alcoholic beverage, Corona, a beer most loved with a lime.
In the post’s 907 comments, one person astutely pointed out, “Why is there no pancreatitis day or liver cirrhosis day?” But in fact, there is World Liver Day observed on April 19, and we’re encouraging you to celebrate this day as well. Still, plenty of winos flocked to the post on National Wine Day. One commenter wrote, “Sounds like a good enough reason to me. Cheers.”
#5: GBI arrests Gregory McMichael and Travis McMichael
2020 delivered a shock felt across the country when Ahmaud Arbery was seen on video being chased and gunned down by Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael, and Roddie Bryan.
The trio were never taken into custody or charged with a crime in the two months prior to the video’s release. In part because of two district attorneys, Jackie Johnson and George Barnhill. They both recused themselves from the case. Barnhill noted he found no grounds for arrest, before passing it off.
After the video of the killing was released to a local radio station, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation arrested the father and son within 48 hours. The News4Jax post announcing the arrest of the McMichaels exploded on social media with 24,000 shares, more than 4,000 reactions, and 820 comments.
Support for the McMichaels was hard to find in the post’s 820 comments, but hundreds were not fully satisfied by the news arrests. Commenters were also calling for the prosecution of the District Attorneys who recused themselves of the case and for the arrest of Roddie Bryan, who had not yet been arrested, but was later.
You can find every Ahmaud Arbery story News4Jax has ever done on the investigation here. As of today’s publishing date, the McMichaels and Bryan are in the Glynn County Jail awaiting trial on several charges, including felony murder.
Jackie Johnson was unseated in her bid for reelection as Brunswick’s District Attorney during the November elections of this year. There was an attempt to recall Waycross District Attorney George Barnhill, but supporters of the move did not gain the required 22,000 signatures by the deadline to get the recall on the 2020 ballot.
Johnson and Barnhill are under investigation by federal authorities. Barnhill denies any wrongdoing.
#4: Stolen special-needs puppy returned to pet store
In mid-September, word spread quickly once News4Jax reported a mini aussiepoo puppy was stolen from Puppies Galore & More in Jacksonville. Just a day later, the puppy had been returned thanks to a diligent neighbor who saw the news story and then noticed his neighbor had the dog.
The post of the pup’s return was liked and shared more than 28,000 times. Hundreds of commenters took it to a different level, bashing puppy mills and breeders, which are sometimes supported by pet stores. The owner of Puppies Galore & More says she treats the company’s puppies like family. Dozens of reviews on Google back that claim up.
Regardless, every commenter was still happy to see the safe return of the mini aussiepoo. There had been heightened concern because the puppy required a special diet due to low blood sugar.
We checked in with Puppies Galore & More and the owner says the puppy sold almost right away after being returned. It is living happily with its new family. We’re still working to find out what the dog’s name became. If you know, send me an email!
#3: Reward for man accused of slashing officer’s neck
In 2020, social media was used as a force to bring justice. Especially in this case, when Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office was looking for a man who was accused of slashing an officer’s neck during a confrontation with protesters downtown. They asked for the public’s help to identify him and you answered. The post was shared more than 35,000 times.
An $8,000 reward was being offered for information leading to an arrest and was paid out to two tipsters. $4000 for each. The man was identified as 22-year-old Martin Bryan Silvera-Albor.
Right now Silvera-Albora is about one month in to his 21-month sentence at Florida State Prison, charged with with battery on a law enforcement officer, aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer, criminal mischief and resisting an officer without violence.
#2. Fort Bragg Soldiers deployed to Middle East
Even though this was not a local story, it hit home for thousands in Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia when 750 from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina were deployed to the Middle East. About 3,000 more were prepared for deployment.
When News4Jax posted this call for prayers, you responded in force. The comments were filled with almost 2,000 prayers and well wishes. Few opposed the posting altogether, one commenter writing, “This is not our fight!”
#1: Baker County couple reunites from afar after more than 2 months apart
This couple’s reunion out of Baker County made international headlines, reaching as far as a news outlet in Pakistan, after News4Jax posted this video in May 2020. It shows W.D. Brinson and Faye Brinson during a short drive-thru reunion during the pandemic.
The couple, who was married for more than 72 years, had not seen each other for two months due to Governor Ron DeSantis’ ban on visitors in Florida nursing homes due to rising COVID-19 cases.
News4Jax spoke with the couple’s granddaughter, Tabatha, who explained the two were living separately since Faye required extra care. The distance, though, never kept them far apart. Tabatha says before the pandemic, every morning W.D. would wake up and go spend the day with his wife, only returning home for meals and to sleep.
It’s why their reunion in May was so special to W.D. and Faye. Tabatha said her grandparents received a flood of letters and cards from people who had seen their story.
“It made them so happy. Those cards and notes were so special to both of them. They kept every single one of them and it brought them both so much happiness and really helped them through the loneliness of being apart,” she said.
When News4Jax first checked-in for an update, we learned life was getting back to normal for the couple. Limitations on visitors at nursing homes had been relaxed. W.D. had been able to see Faye for an hour once a week since late October. Tabatha says he never once missed a visit.
In early December, Faye’s health took a bad turn, requiring her to be hospitalized, but there was a silver lining. Visiting rules were different at the hospital so W.D. and Faye were able to see each other every day all day. Then, the family received word Faye tested positive for COVID-19 and the visits had to stop.
By mid-December, Faye was recovering and improving from COVID-19, but unfortunately, she passed away from an unrelated issue in the hospital the day after Christmas.
The family says they are heartbroken, none more than W.D. who said Faye was his life and he loved her more than anything in this world.
Faye was 89. She will be laid to rest in Jacksonville Monday. In lieu of flowers, W.D. is asking for donations to be made to Frank Wells Nursing Home in Macclenny with “in remembrance Faye Brinson” notated. W.D. said the nursing home staff treated them like family and took excellent care of Faye for years.
Tabatha hopes her grandparents’ love story will inspire others to take on what their family has been learning from the couple all this time.
“They showed us what true marriage and true love really is.”
Rest In Peace, Faye.
The family invites you to view Faye’s obituary here.
Editor’s Note: 2020′s most-popular posts were determined by their engagement on Facebook and Twitter. Only Facebook posts are shown in this story, so while some stories with lower Facebook numbers are higher on the list than others, the post’s Twitter engagement were better, making the post more popular overall.
BONUS: File this one under arachnophobia
This one was just too good to leave. out. In 2020, laughs were sometimes few and far between. That’s why we’re including this viral video. Keep your eye on the curtain on the right panel. You’ll see a spider crawl down and this couple’s reaction is priceless.
Was there a memorable story from 2020 you think should be mentioned? Keep the conversation going in the comments!