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St. Johns County DOH Director Urges Leaders, Residents To Listen To Experts On Coronavirus

A sign reading "My Teacher Misses Me" outside of an Atlantic Beach home.
A sign reading "My Teacher Misses Me" outside of an Atlantic Beach home.

St. Johns County’s leading medical expert says the nation was unprepared for coronavirus and that leaders and residents aren’t doing enough to stop its spread.

During Monday’s St. Augustine City Commission meeting, Mayor Tracy Upchurch asked St. Johns County Department of Health Director Dawn Allicock what state and local governments can learn from the coronavirus pandemic.

Upchruch responded with a passionate plea for leaders and residents to listen to public health experts.

“I’ve been in public health now for 20 years. It’s not my first rodeo,” she said. “However, it is the first time I’ve experienced a pandemic of this nature, and recognize - we did not have the resources, we were not ready for it, and people are not really listening. We’re much more interested in immediate gratification and [thinking] miraculously it’s going to go away. It doesn’t work like that.”

She said if communities get complacent with social distancing, the pandemic could worsen. But if strict social distancing continues to be enforced, the spread of the virus can be stopped.

“As this pandemic continues to impact our community, my heart is with individuals and families affected as they struggle with illness and grief. There's so much we still do not know about this virus,” she said.

“Science, however, will get us to proven effective treatments for COVID-19 and the creation of a vaccine. Just as science has allowed us to reduce or delay infections and to save lives. Eventually COVID-19 will become endemic like the cold or flu. And, on a softer note, at the end of the day, most of us who get the infection will recover.”

Brendan Rivers can be reached at brivers@wjct.org, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.

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