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Big Bend leaders hold vigil in honor of COVID-19 victims

Posted at 10:16 PM, Apr 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-16 22:16:52-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — It's now been more than one year since the first person died from COVID-19 in Leon County. As people remember those killed, there's an even greater push to get people vaccinated as health leaders count yet another rise in cases.

New information from the Florida Department of Health shows the average percentage of positive cases is now at more than five percent, making the average about 30 cases daily in the past week. DOH data reports this comes after a significant fall from the post-holiday peak in January when Leon averaged 10 percent positivity. Only 21 percent of Leon County is vaccinated right now.

Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil said it's now more important than ever to keep masking up and get vaccinated.

"Don't believe the misinformation. Get the shot and vaccinate yourself from this hideous disease," said McNeil.

McNeil, together with other faith and community leaders came together virtually Friday in honor of the 34,238 who died from the virus. In Leon County, 308 people died from COVID-19, including three Fort Braden School employees. Commissioner Jimbo Jackson reflected on the personal losses he's seen during the pandemic.

"This past Saturday, April the 10. My 85-year-old mother succumbed to the effects and complications due to COVID-19," said Jackson. "I've personally dealt with three cherished employees who have fallen victim to this virus."

Together, the group had a message of unity.

"We're in this together," said Capital Regional Medical Center CEO Alan Keesee. "The most important part of all of this I think is what we've seen and what we'll carry forward is to remain patient with one another, to remain kind with one another and remain compassionate as a community."

Leon Department of Health Officer Claudia Blackburn the vigil is a reminder we're not done with the fight just yet.

"Remembering they were more than just a person how had COVID. They were our mothers, our fathers, our siblings, our family, our friends," said Blackburn. "We remember them and may their memory be a blessing to you."

Gadsden Commissioner Brenda Holt also spoke at Friday afternoon's vigil. Holt said the county will have a memorial at the courthouse in honor of the 92 who have died there.