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Somber milestone

By Staff | Mar 9, 2021

About a year ago, on Feb. 28, The Breeze published our first editorial on a new coronavirus dubbed COVID-19.

The editorial shared the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s emphasis on the then new-to-the-U.S. disease: Share the Facts, Stop Fear.

The facts then, from the CDC, as best officials knew?

Topping the CDC fact sheet posted to the agency’s website was this: “The risk of getting COVID-19 in the U.S. is low.”

“For the general American public, who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus at this time, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low,” the CDC stated.

By March 1, things had changed drastically.

Florida was in a declared State of Public Health Emergency.

Beaches, bars, parks, schools and most gathering places were closed. Restaurants were ordered to cut seating capacity by half.

Grocery stores shortened the number of hours they were open so that facilities could be sanitized and shelves could be restocked.

Government agencies closed offices and urged residents to access services online.

Lee County then saw its first death due to COVID-19 on March 5.

In Lee County 883 such deaths have followed in the days since, with 3,955 statewide and more than 517,224 nationwide. In the U.S. 28.5 million of us have tested positive for the virus that for the vast majority is mild, even symptomless, but for too many of our family, friends and neighbors life-threatening or even deadly.

In memory of those who have died, flags throughout our state few at half-staff Wednesday at the direction of Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“For the past year, millions of Americans have experienced great loss as loved ones succumbed to the virus and have encountered great challenges resulting from lockdowns, including harmful impacts to our economy, society, and mental health,” Gov. DeSantis said in a prepared statement. “We must remember all those lost so that we may move forward to ensure a brighter future for all Floridians.” 

On Friday, Lee Health will remember the first death in Lee County at Gulf Coast Medical Center with a ceremony to honor all those who have lost their lives to COVID-19 and related complications.

The ceremony also recognized health care professionals who have unwaveringly provided care to those in need.

“The health system will also recognize and thank its teams throughout Lee Health who have shown tremendous bravery and fortitude as they continue to place themselves in harm’s way fighting the virus. Lee Health leadership and others will provide a telling account of their COVID-19 journey,” health officials said in the announcement of the ceremony.

Both remembrances were fitting.

And where are we now, a year later?

If vaccinations matter, we, as a county, as a state, are in a better position to fight the ongoing pandemic.

According to Gov. DeSantis’ office, Florida continues to lead the nation in vaccinations provided to the highest-risk population, seniors, saying that more than 50% of the state’s population 65 and older has received the vaccine.  

As of last Wednesday, another risk group was added to those who are vaccine-eligible in Florida: school employees, sworn law enforcement officers and firefighters 50 and older. 

Meanwhile cases, and deaths have begun to decline.

So some light, we hope, at the end of what has been, at times, a very dark tunnel.

— Neighbor editorial