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Palatka mayor recovering from COVID-19, encourages residents to stay vigilant

Palatka Mayor Terrill Hill, 48, thought it was a sinus infection and he treated it with over-the-counter medications until he blacked out.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Palatka Mayor Terrill Hill, 48, is relatively healthy, or at least he thought he was until he was diagnosed with the novel coronavirus.

Hill was hospitalized 10 days.

"I ended up with atrial fibrillation. My heart rate went from 80 to about 150," said Hill. "It affected my kidneys, my blood sugar and I ended up with bilateral pneumonia, so I am blessed to be here."

Hill said he thought it was a sinus infection and he treated it with over-the-counter medications until he blacked out.

He said he went to the hospital, where he was treated and released, and then he passed out again.

"I kept getting weaker, and then I blacked out again and I went back into the hospital and then they kept me for 10 days," said Hill.

Hill doesn't know when or where he may have contracted the virus. But in Putnam County, the numbers are climbing.

The county recently reached a COVID-19 milestone of 5,000 positive cases, 412 hospitalizations and 89 COVID-19-related deaths. 

The state of Florida COVID-19 dashboard shows the median age of COVID-19 patients in Putnam County is 40. In other words, it is not just seniors.

Hill said the vaccines are coming to the mostly rural county, but not enough. 

"We have 10,000, we are waiting and we are getting 600 doses a week and 8,000 have already been used," he said.

Hill said given the current COVID-19 positivity rate of 9.7%, he is reaching out to the state for help. 

But for now, he is working on his recovery to avoid any long-term effects from his bout with the virus.

"I've started getting out, exercising to try to build up my lung strength," said Hill.

The Town of Palatka has a mask mandate, of which Hill is a big supporter, but it is not countywide.

He is concerned that there are many who are asymptomatic and not aware that they are carrying the virus.

Hill is encouraging the community to continue to follow CDC guidelines and to stay vigilant.   

"The pandemic isn't over. It looks like it is getting stronger," he said.

Wear a mask in public, continue to practice social distancing and good hand hygiene, Hill urged.

He said if you really don't need to be out and in the public, stay home.