Action News Jax Exclusive: US Surgeon General on COVID-19 in Florida

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — COVID-19 has broken hearts and taken the lives of many over the past 18 months.

Amy Ryals lost her neighbor and longtime friend of 21 years to COVID-19.

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”Randy, he was a healthy man. Working one day for the city, and the next day in the hospital,” Ryals said.She tells Action News Jax her neighbor’s death was eye-opening.

”I can’t believe a healthy man that you see every day – ‘hi, Randy, hi, this and that, and everything’ – went into the hospital and he’s gone, he’s just gone from that disease,” she said.

To Ryals’ knowledge, her neighbor wasn’t fully vaccinated but had gotten his first round of the shot. Now, she takes every precaution against COVID-19, including masking up at all times.

It’s a move some school districts have made. DCPS has implemented a 90-day mask mandate for all of its schools.

”Schools which did not adopt mask requirements were more than three-and-a-half times as likely to experience outbreaks in school,” U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy told Action News Jax in an exclusive interview.

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Murthy says masks are the best way to protect kids from the virus.

Murthy worries about a recent change that allows Florida parents to decide whether their child returns to school after exposure if they’re asymptomatic. He argues that asymptomatic people can still have and spread the virus.

”If you are exposed to somebody who has COVID-19, quarantine is actually the right strategy,” Murthy said.

He says it’ll take getting everyone on board to beat the virus.

”We know how to pull together during times of need. What we can’t do is to let misinformation, politics, other concerns split us apart, turn us against each other, that’s when we lose,” Murthy said.