March 20, 2020
“The situation is now terrible … over 150 new cases yesterday and 20 deaths … All business and work is suspended … The city government is virtually defunct, the heads having fled… God knows where the end is.”
More than 100 years ago, that’s what Jacksonville’s mayor wrote to a friend about yellow fever, a viral disease that was gripping Florida in 1888. Sound familiar?
The viral disease’s reach extended south as well, as far as North Fort Myers, where a Caloosahatchee tributary still bears the epidemic’s name. Emptying into the river just opposite Thomas Edison’s winter home, Yellow Fever Creek has been on my “to write about” list forever.
Not because of its scrappy band of advocates, who’ve been working hard to get it better preserved and protected, but because of that name. See, some would have us forget its original label and call it Hancock Creek instead. And I can certainly understand the distaste for its original label, thanks to one of the region’s early public health calamities, which calls to mind some of what we’re experiencing today.