No one knows how the coronavirus arrived in Florida as 2020 dawned. Maybe a Super Bowl visitor brought it before the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the San Francisco 49ers in early February. Maybe a business traveler returning from Asia, Seattle or New York or a cruise passenger was infected.
What is known is like the rest of the planet, the pandemic dominated Florida headlines in 2020 — more than 21,100 residents have died from COVID-19, tens of thousands have been hospitalized and more than a million caught it.
The virus cratered the state’s economy. Unemployment is at 6.4%, up from 2.9% a year ago — it peaked at 14.5% in May. At one point, more than a million Floridians needed unemployment assistance — a crisis made worse when the state’s computer system for seeking benefits crashed under the strain.
Because of the pandemic, Jacksonville was awarded much of the Republican National Convention when Charlotte, North Carolina, imposed attendance restrictions. But shortly before the convention opened, a July spike canceled it.
Of course, the virus wasn’t the only major Florida story in 2020. President Donald Trump carried his adopted home state, defeating President-elect Joe Biden by 3 percentage points, defying predictions that Florida’s race would be a nail-biter.