2020 has finally come to an end.
It was a year of unprecedented challenges in which we lost several local businesses and, much more significantly, hundreds of residents as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic – which we’ll talk about more later. It was also a year of slow but steady progress on a number of issues in Jacksonville, including riverfront development and racial equality.
As we look forward to a more positive year in 2021, let’s take a quick look at some of what made 2020 noteworthy locally – the good, the bad, and the in-between. Here are the five biggest stories from Jacksonville in 2020, in no particular order.
At the start of the year, no one could have imagined that a then-emerging overseas virus would bring life to a grinding halt – at least temporarily – here in Jacksonville.
And yet, that’s exactly what happened, both here and throughout the country, as the U.S. became the epicenter of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Lockdowns in the spring brought about the closure of bars, restaurants, movie theaters, and many other businesses, all in the interest of “flattening the curve.” It worked, but only temporarily, as early misconceptions about the way the virus spreads combined with anti-science disinformation created a perfect storm that put COVID-19 on the path to becoming endemic in the U.S. It has been spreading in waves since it arrived.
And unfortunately, many of those businesses that closed during the lockdown are gone for good.
Mayor Lenny Curry took a relatively strong stance in fighting the pandemic compared to Governor Ron DeSantis and President Donald Trump’s respective administrations. Curry instituted a local mask mandate and worked with city council to provide financial support to local businesses that were negatively affected by the lockdowns.
As of today, there have been over 60,000 cases of COVID-19 in Duval County. Just over 1,500 residents have been hospitalized, and 725 have died from the illness.
Between the pandemic itself and the struggles it has caused for local businesses, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in the city that hasn’t in some way felt the impact of COVID-19.
With the arrival of several vaccine options, 2021 looks to be a more hopeful year. But COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere any time soon, and its personal, emotional, and economic ramifications may be felt for years to come.