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Leon County Sheriff On Coronavirus: ‘This Is Deadly Serious’

Close up of a smiling Walt McNeil in his sheriff's uniform with an American flag behind him
Leon County Sheriff's Office/Facebook

Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil took to Facebook this weekend to urge residents to stay home.

He says area medical professionals are telling him it looks like the coronavirus “is on the way. They are extremely concerned.”

Standing outside his house with the sun shining and birds chirping, he said we should be “all in” like the Three Musketeers, working together to stop the spread of the virus.

“Let’s take this opportunity, folks, to save ourselves,” McNeil said. “This is about saving our community and saving lives. It might not be your life, but it’s going to be someone else’s life.”

McNeil is particularly concerned about Easter coming up and the desire for worshippers to attend services. He used a story from the Bible to show it’s okay to stay home instead. “When the plague came in Exodus, the Lord told the people to stay inside.”

When the plague came in Exodus, the Lord told the people to stay inside. ~Sheriff Walt McNeil

Despite a statewide stay-at-home order, law enforcement from around the Big Bend say people are still very much on the move.

The sheriff in Wakulla County reports the Wakulla River has been packed, and much of the crowd is from the Tallahassee area. “He said it took his deputies two hours to get from one side of the river to the other because of so many people there,” McNeil said.

“Our deputies are out there,” McNeil said, “and when you’re exposing yourselves, you’re putting my deputies and our law enforcement partners in danger as well.”

He says he’s hearing that Leon County folks are also going to Jefferson County to hunt. That, he says, is sending the wrong message that it’s okay to move about as long as we’re not in contact with others.

More from Sheriff McNeil’s 5-minute Facebook video:

“We talk about being all in (#ALLinLeon)….With this COVID virus, we’ve got to be all in, all working together to stay home, to distance ourselves. That’s what this is about. The only armor we have against this virus is distancing ourselves, staying home.

I want to challenge all of us. We’ve got Passover coming up, we’ve got Easter coming up, and let’s be biblical about this…Our intelligence tells us we should distance ourselves, stay away from each other. In Exodus, it tells us it’s appropriate from time to time for religious folks to go inside when a plague is coming and separate ourselves for that Passover period. We’re talking now from April 8th to April 17th. Let’s make sure those (virus) numbers go down.”

Update - Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Big Bend as of Sunday morning: Leon – 43, Bay – 23, Madison – 7, Wakulla – 6, Gadsden – 4, Dixie – 1, Franklin – 2, Jefferson – 1, Liberty – 0, Taylor – 0.

Gina Jordan is the host of Morning Edition for WFSU News. Gina is a Tallahassee native and graduate of Florida State University. She spent 15 years working in news/talk and country radio in Orlando before becoming a reporter and All Things Considered host for WFSU in 2008. Follow Gina: @hearyourthought on Twitter. Click below for Gina's full bio.