JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There’s a call to not only mandate the vaccine among first responders but to protect them.
“Citizens, get vaccinated because we have to come into your environment,” said Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department District Chief Terrance Jones, with the Jacksonville Brotherhood of Firefighters. “We have a duty and responsibility to protect you. You show some duty in your community to protect us.”
News4Jax records show seven first responders have died from COVID-19 complications in Northeast Florida, including JFRD Lt. Mario Moya, who passed away Wednesday. Now, Jones, one of Moya’s mentors, is calling for a vaccination mandate among first responders as the coronavirus delta variant surges.
“We have a duty to act,” said Jones. “You have a right not to get the vaccine, but I have a duty to respond even though you’re contagious. I have to go into your environment.”
Jones is calling for mandated vaccinations among all first responders to save their lives. Within the department, he said, there are three divisions: fire suppression, rescue and prevention.
“That’s why you have sprinkler systems and smoke alarms and smoke detectors to call us before you can even call us,” said Jones. “The vaccine is part of the prevention.”
These are the names of the local fallen heroes who have passed away from COVID-19 complications:
- St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Jody Hull, who had most recently served as the Youth Resource Deputy at St. Augustine High School
- Neptune Beach Police Department Officer Eddie Bounds, who had recently retired and came back to work for the department as a civilian employee
“Lt. Moya doesn’t get a second chance, but we have some firefighters right now in the ICU,” said Jones. “I risk my life for you citizens, so do a little something for me and my brother and sister firefighters. Do it in honor of Lt. Moya. Get vaccinated.”
The city sent News4Jax this message: “Terrance Jones does not speak for the City of Jacksonville. This administration has consistently stated that we do not believe government or their agencies should mandate vaccines. We continue to encourage those who are eligible to get vaccinated but stand firm that government should not be mandating what people put in their body.”
The Officer Down Memorial Page shows 108 COVID-19 deaths of law enforcement officers in the United States so far in 2021 -- by far the largest cause of deaths. The site shows that out of the 16 total line-of-duty deaths in Florida this year, 11 were because of COVID-19.
Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police President Steve Zona shared a statement, which reads in part: “There is no death in service to others that can be called less than a tragedy. As we’ve seen our Brothers and Sisters pass due to complications of this virus we mourn their passing and celebrate their lives as any other line of duty death. We recognize that it is another danger to our ranks much like the increase in violent and ambush style attacks that our members face daily to uphold our promises to our communities. We look forward to working with our legislative friend locally and in Tallahassee to strengthen protections for our members.”
Visitation and a prayer vigil will be held Wednesday for Moya, starting at 4 p.m. at St Joseph’s Catholic Church at 11757 Old St. Augustine Road. Moya will be laid to rest on Thursday at 11 a.m. at the Mass of Christian Burial.
Visitation for Hull will be on Saturday at 3 p.m. at Turning Point at Calvary Church at 3500 State Road 16 in St Augustine. The memorial service is at 4 p.m., with the burial to follow at Craig Memorial Park at 2600 Moultrie Road.
Both funerals will be open to the public.