JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — On Tuesday, UF Health Jacksonville reported 239 COVID-19 patients system-wide, including 54 that were in the ICU.
However, those patients are more than faceless statistics.
Lawrence Johnson has been at UF Health Jacksonville's downtown campus for 20 days fighting COVID-19. The self-described healthy, active 67-year-old said he has to now re-learn how to walk.
The good news, he said, is he is improving and credits the staff caring for him.
"They’re the best in the world," Johnson said. "Everybody treats me 1,000 percent like I’m their own child and looks after me."
Johnson, like more than 90 percent of COVID patients at hospitals in Jacksonville, is not vaccinated.
“I was inconsiderate and stupid and dumb for not getting the vaccination," Johnson admitted. “If I had somebody to talk to me and explain to me the importance of the vaccine and all of that, I probably would have got it."
Now, Johnson said it's his mission to encourage others to get the shot.
"This virus will almost drain the life out of you," he explained.
Johnson said God put him through this fight with COVID to help others.
“He wants me to be his ambassador to let everybody know get the vaccination. Go get those shots," Johnson urged. "I don't care if they have to shoot you in the eyeball, in the ear, go get the shot. Please. Save your life. Save your family’s life. Save your friend's life."
Johnson said everyone has a moral obligation to get vaccinated to protect each other.
“Jacksonville, Florida is a hotbed," Johnson said. "So, you need to go get vaccinated so you won't be laying up in a bed for 20 days like me. It is best to be vaccinated than to be on the slab in the morgue or laying up in a hospital for 20 days."
"You do not want this virus. Get vaccinated, please. You do not want this virus. There's a lot of things you might want in life. This is not one of them," he continued. "I would not wish this on my worst enemy. So, please, please, please if you don't listen to anything in life, listen to this: get your vaccination as fast as you can," Johnson said.
Johnson also urges people not to believe misinformation spreading about the vaccine.
“Do not listen to all of that stupidity, and that foolishness that these people are saying, and come up with all kinds of dumb excuses," Johnson explained. "All that is is a dog gone pathway to the graveyard," he said.
Johnson will go to rehab to re-learn how to walk and get his strength back when he's released from the hospital.
So far, Johnson said his story has already convinced seven people close to him to get the shot.