Duval County

St. Augustine 9/11 Survivor: “It would be amazing if everybody would wear a mask”

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — As COVID-19 threatens the health of many in the country, there’s a specific vulnerable group of people urging community members to wear a mask.

Hundreds of 9/11 first responders and survivors, now living in Florida, have respiratory diseases and weakened immune systems. As a result, they can be at high risk for contracting coronavirus.

Michael Barasch, a New York lawyer, represents 1,500 Florida 9/11 first responders and survivors who have become sick as a result of exposure to Ground Zero toxins. During the COVID-19 pandemic, 12 of his clients have died from a mix of exposure to the virus and pre-existing conditions.

One of Barasch’s clients, Amanda Toussaint, lives in St. Augustine and owns a restaurant in Jacksonville. She recently was diagnosed with stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma as a result of her exposure to toxins from Ground Zero in New York. She is a mother of three young children. Right now, the 42-year-old worries for her health because of cancer, but she’s also very concerned about coronavirus. She said she mostly stays home, but believes to beat the virus, everyone must look out for each other.

”I hope everybody realizes that this isn’t just about them,” Toussaint said. “It’s about everybody.”

Toussaint is urging people to social distance and wear a mask.”I think they are necessary to protect themselves, but also for people like me,” Toussaint said.

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