Surviving COVID-19 – Jacksonville City Council President’s Saving Grace Story

Councilman Sam Newby

By Darryl Sellers – The COVID-19 pandemic has been a very trying, taxing, and tenuous time for Black Americans who have felt the effects of the virus. For Jacksonville City Council President Samuel Newby, there’s one specific date related to COVID-19 that’s left an indelible mark in his mind. “I was diagnosed on March 11, 2020,” Councilman Newby said.

Councilman Newby is a Jacksonville native who has fostered a gratifying 30-year career by serving dual roles both in corporate leadership as well as local community-based organizations. The councilman contracted COVID-19 at a precarious time, well before the Food and Drug Administration’s issuing of Emergency Use Authorizations which cleared the use of Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines.

In Councilman Newby’s case of COVID-19, he was unsure about his illness after showing signs of having the virus in early March 2020. After seven days of continual sickness, and several visits to his doctor that didn’t reveal any clear-cut diagnosis, Councilman Newby took the next step to get some answers.

“Finally, I went to the emergency room and they gave me a COVID test,” said Councilman Newby. “And then we found out I had COVID.”

Councilman Newby was the fourth person in Jacksonville to test positive for COVID-19. It was a trying time for him because at the time, there were so many unknowns about COVID-19.

“They really didn’t have a clue what was going on,” Councilman Newby said. “I was the first case in St. Vincent Hospital and the doctors literally couldn’t treat me,” he added. “I was literally facing death. I remember one Saturday night I was in the hospital. I told my wife to get all of the insurance papers together because I didn’t think I was going to make it through the night.”

Thankfully, the councilman made it through that Saturday night and fully recovered from COVID-19 after a month-long battle with the virus. Councilman Newby is now a strong advocate for COVID-19 vaccinations. He said the risks from COVID-19 far outweigh any risks from side effects of the vaccine.

“It’s important to get vaccinated,” Councilman Newby said. “Even if you’re vaccinated and you’re a breakthrough case, the symptoms likely won’t be as bad. So, vaccination is the key. I encourage everyone who’s not vaccinated to get vaccinated.”

In Florida, only 37 percent of Black residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Councilman Newby shared a sad story which highlights why it’s crucial for eligible Black Americans of all ages to get vaccinated.

“I know a young man who had just graduated from college,” Councilman Newby said. “He didn’t get vaccinated, caught COVID and unfortunately his mother and his wife are now burying him.”

All in all, after his brush with death from COVID-19 in March 2020, Councilman Newby has a powerful testimony about his victory over the virus.

“To be honest, it was only the grace of God that got me through it,” Councilman Newby said. “Because at that time they didn’t know what to do. That was early on and they didn’t give me any medicine or anything. It was definitely the grace of God that got me through.”

To learn more about COVID-19 and find a location near you to get vaccinated, visit

Darryl Sellers is the Director of the Public Relations Team for Creative Marketing Resources, a strategic marketing agency in Milwaukee and a partner of the Cobb Institute.


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