Coronavirus started out slow.
We now know it may have been in the U.S. as early as December 2019, but it took months to officially show up in Florida.
“Last night, the Department of Health announced there are two presumptive positive cases of coronavirus disease here in the State of Florida,” Gov. Ron DeSantis announced in March.
Soon after, he declared a public health state of emergency.
Four days later, in early March, Southwest Florida saw its first case and death.
“It is with great sadness that I tell you that one of our patients has passed away,” Dr. Larry Antonucci, president and CEO of Lee Health, said on March 7, 2020.
Coronavirus concerns not only spread in hospitals, but in shopping aisles as well.
Items like hand sanitizer, masks and toilet paper started disappearing, leading to shortages with limits remaining on certain items to this day.
Long lines formed at stores and families weighed the decision of going shopping or ordering things online.
Across the state, beaches and bars closed and we had to give up indoor dining at restaurants too.
Free testing sites started popping up in Southwest Florida.
“W.H.O has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we’re deeply concerned, both by the alarming levels of spread and severity and by the alarming levels of inaction. We have therefore made the assessment that covid-19 can be characterized as a pandemic,” said World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
And while experts thought the summer months would help us fight back against the virus by encouraging us to gather outdoors. That didn’t happen.
Instead, on July 12, the state saw the most new cases ever, 15,300 new infections in a day.
That trend was evident in Southwest Florida as well, with 167 new cases on the very same day.
By mid-August, hope had arrived.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for convalescent plasma.
And more good news glimmered on the horizon. Several coronavirus vaccines approached the finish line.
But the vaccine didn’t come in time to stop Florida from hitting one-million coronavirus cases on Dec. 1. It also didn’t come in time to stop COVID-19 infections from becoming the number one cause of death in the country.
“We are in the midst of a terrible pandemic in this country. We are seeing record numbers of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths,” said Dr. William Moss, executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
On Dec. 14, Pfizer’s vaccine was introduced. Moderna came a week later and frontline workers began to get vaccinated.
In Florida, when they opened up vaccinations for those in the public who are 65 and older, chaos ensued in Lee County as people wanted a shot of hope heading into 20201.