ONLY ON: ‘It’s real…very real:’ Jacksonville woman shares her family’s battle with COVID-19

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Coronavirus cases in Northeast Florida remain low, but consistent, according to the Florida Department of Health.

With more people getting the COVID-19 vaccine and more access to the shot, it feels as if we may be getting back to some normalcy, especially with restrictions now being lifted.

Melissa Stewart wants to warn people that we should still be cautious.

“I was one of those people like, ‘oh it’s just a cold, oh it’s just a flu,’” Stewart said.

She’s since had a change of heart after it personally impacted her family. Her 56-year-old mother, Priscilla Croft, tested positive for COVID-19 on March 17, 2021.

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“My own mother said it to me, the day she went home from St. Vincent’s, ‘let me tell you about it. It’s just the flu,’” Stewart said. “Not even five days later, she was admitted to the hospital and I haven’t been able to hug on my mom or love on my mom.”

She finally tested negative for COVID-19 30 days later, but she is suffering some long-term effects.

“They transferred her to Gainesville, because there’s a special treatment called ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) and that’s sort of what is keeping her alive right now,” Stewart said. “It helps the lungs get the oxygen it needs. We’ll have to train her to walk again, talk again, learn how to eat.”

As of May 23, 2021 — Duval County has a low, but consistent number of COVID-19 cases.

The Florida Department of Health said it’s seeing 2% of all cases result in hospitalization.

Statewide, our death toll is decreasing daily. The latest data from the Florida Department of Health shows on May 21 and 22, there were a total of two deaths between both days.

“What I think a lot of people are thinking is, ‘oh this pandemic is really finally ending, we got it in control and it’s going away,’ and the answer is it’s not,” Action News Jax Medical Expert, Dr. Michelle Aquino, said.

She said most of those being hospitalized are those who have not been vaccinated. The vaccine was not available to Croft’s age group when she tested positive for the virus.

“If you’re not vaccinated — new variants, not new variants — COVID is still here,” Dr. Aquino said. “You need to be wearing a mask.”

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Regardless of your decision to get the shot or not, Stewart wants to remind people to make smart choices with their health.

“When you see your family member in that bed, you realize it’s real…very real,” She said. “Wear your masks. Wash your hands.”

If you’re interested in helping the family during this difficult time, Stewart has more information and more on her mother’s story here.