1 year later: City, health leaders reflect on COVID-19′s mark on Jacksonville

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – One year ago, Duval County reported its first case of COVID-19, changing our lives in a way many of us never imagined.

City leaders and hospital officials took time Saturday to reflect on the past year.

“You can tell a lot about people about how they respond to hardship,” Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said in a video statement posted to YouTube marking one year since he signed an emergency order to address COVID-19 in Duval County. “These are defining moments for people in communities, and citizens of Jacksonville have demonstrated time and time again since our founding in 1822 we are strong, compassionate, bold and resilient people.”

COVID-19 shut down beaches, gyms and entertainment venues, transitioned kids to online learning and left many people without jobs.

To date, more than 90,000 coronavirus cases have been reported in Duval County.

“The term for me that really ties the whole last year together I think is ‘challenging,’” said Dr. Chirag Patel, assistant chief medical officer at UF Health Jacksonville. “Challenging due to the number of cases, the severity of sickness, the high rate of death with COVID, really which all combine to take a massive toll on the mental health and well-being of health care workers.”

But Patel said the silver lining is that health care workers and the scientific community across the country rose to the challenge.

One year later, cases are on the decline and several vaccination sites are set up across the city offering a glimmer of hope.

But the mayor is encouraging people not to let their guard down quite yet.

“We truly are a kind and compassionate people. Now one year later, more vaccines are becoming available, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We must only push on a bit further,” Curry said. “I encourage everyone to fight to end this pandemic once and for all.”

As we see that light at the end of the tunnel, Patel is also encouraging people to keep wearing a mask, social distancing and washing your hands frequently.

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