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Life in Jacksonville no longer a day at the beach

Tedarius Abrams is a graduating senior at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona, Florida. His commencement ceremony has been canceled because of the virus. Abrams served as a 2019 summer intern at the Chicago Crusader as part of the Discover The Unexpected (DTU) summer internship program sponsored by General Motors. Abrams is back in his hometown in Jacksonville, FL.

By Tedarius Abrams

From being the gateway to the sunshine state to being in a State of emergency, the spread of COVID-19 has come to Jacksonville, Florida. A bustling city of commerce and trade, Jacksonville is now a ghost town of sorts.

If you are headed toward Georgia or Florida, it’s not uncommon to see heavy traffic. There are nearly 7,000 confirmed coronavirus cases of the virus in Florida. Authorities have set up checkpoint on Interstate 95 South to screen drivers coming from hotbed cities like New York City to slow the spread of the virus as much as possible.

Jacksonville is a city that thrives off its import and export business industry that includes large distribution centers for companies such as UPS, FedEx, Fanatics, and Amazon. This makes it difficult for the city to completely shut down. Residents are likely to see employees of those companies headed for work or returning home from their shift. The employees who have less physical jobs are working from home. Those still working in the warehouses and docks in Jacksonville have a higher risk of contracting the virus because of the heavy interaction. Jacksonville depends on these workers to keep the city going. Without them, Jacksonville would crumble.

The fear of the virus has spread to the Duval county public school district. All students from Pre-K to high school seniors are finishing out the school year online. It’s depressing when I drive past vacant, deserted school campuses. Before the pandemic struck, I would navigate through school buses and heavy traffic to get around town. Now I miss seeing people enjoying life outside and going about their daily lives. Like many people across the country, they now stay at home to protect themselves from the invisible killer.

The older and younger generations in Jacksonville have felt the impact of this health crisis. Many supermarkets here are allowing only five people in at a time. On the first Wednesday of every month, Downtown Jacksonville hosts what the natives call “The Art Walk.” The event brings together artists, mobile chefs, and vendors in to showcase their talents. The event also provides a commercial opportunity for all to enjoy the new wave of culture in Duval County. Because of the virus, this year’s “Art Walk” has been canceled. It’s the first time the event has been canceled since it began in 2003.

As a Florida resident, it’s difficult to stay away from the beach. It’s a birthright if you were born in the Sunshine State. The beaches here have been closed to the public since March 18th. In early March, residents were allowed in the area with restrictions that limited the number of beachgoers. Now, no one is allowed on the beach with the rising number of coronavirus cases.

After drawing heavy criticism from political leaders and Florida’s biggest newspapers, Governor Ron Desantis on April 1, finally issued a statewide stay-at-home order that will be effective Friday, April 3 at 12:01 a.m. Citizens in Jacksonville must stay in their homes except for essential items and critical needs. As of April 1st there are only 200 confirmed cases of the virus and four deaths in Jacksonville, which is the biggest city in Florida. That is a very low number compared to other cities, but Jacksonville has decided that its residents are safer indoors.

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