If you want to avoid another virus shutdown, act like it
Anyone remember coronavirus?
After dominating our lives for months, it became yesterday’s news as social protests erupted and people just wanted to get on with their lives.
We may have forgotten about coronavirus, but coronavirus hasn’t forgotten about us.
The infection rate has exploded in recent days. Hospitalization rates are still acceptable, so health officials say there’s no reason to panic.
There is plenty of reason for concern, however. If the infection trajectory continues rising, “we’d have to do something much more drastic,” Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said.
Drastic, as is in reviving the stay-athome orders.
The public should be eager to do everything possible to avoid another shutdown. “Everything” means wearing masks and observing social distancing guidelines.
Considering the astronomical toll the COVID-19 crisis has exacted, that seems a small price to pay. Instead, far too many people have gone into Phase 4 mindset.
Phase 1 was the initial opening of non-essential businesses on May 4. Phase 2, which began June 5, increased capacity limits and opened bars and other entertainment venues. Phase 3 will eventually lift almost all restrictions.
There is no actual Phase 4, but it essentially means nobody cares anymore.
ORLANDO SENTINEL EDITORIAL
It meant Jacksonville and Gov. Ron DeSantis throwing out the welcome mat for the Republican National Convention. Delegates better steer clear of Jacksonville Beach, where a number of bars and eateries have closed again due to a coronavirus flareup.
It meant thousands protesting the George Floyd killing. Socially, it was the right thing to do. Scientifically, it was risky.
A Phase 4 mindset means ignoring one-way aisles in grocery stores. It means treating masks as an ideological enemy. It means bars proclaiming “We’re back, baby!”
That was The Knight’s Pub’s social media message when it reopened two weeks ago. It was time to party like it’s 2019, with free beer and no cover charge for women.
The hangout near UCF was packed with people far more concerned about drink specials than social distancing. Now it’s closed again, shut down because the owner learned a patron had coronavirus symptoms.
Health officials say 30 cases have been linked to one unidentified business near UCF. Jay Zembower, Seminole County’s Commission Chairman, had a message for today’s youth.
“Look, I get it. You think you’re invincible. That you’re not the population that are likely going to die,” he said.
“But you have a responsibility to the rest of the public. So stop being silly and wear a mask and take precautions.” Being silly has serious consequences. Diagnosed cases in the state have skyrocketed from about 700 a day in early May to 2,738 on Tuesday. But death rates have declined and hospitalization rates are stable.
Or so we’re told.
Unlike many states, Florida lists only the total number of coronavirus-related hospital admissions. There is no day-today tracking of COVID-19 patients.
It’s up to hospitals to volunteer that information and relay capacity numbers. Health officials say more than
80% of general and ICU beds in Orange and Seminole counties are currently taken.
The system isn’t stressed, they say. DeSantis said in April he expected positive cases to rise to 2,000 a day as the state reopened. We’re zooming past that, but DeSantis reiterated his fullsteam-ahead message this week.
“We’re not shutting down. We’re going to go forward,” he said. “You have to have society function.”
No doubt, Florida needs to get up and running. The state just needs to do it right.
It would help if leaders set a better example. In an all-too-typical scene, DeSantis was the honorary starter at Sunday’s NASCAR race in Homestead.
It was the first event with fans since March, though only 1,000 were allowed into a track that could hold 46,000. As a lone fan in a mask sat near the starter’s area, a mask-less DeSantis waved the green flag.
Sure, wearing a mask in that setting would have been mostly symbolic. But he also didn’t wear one recently while grabbing a burger with Vice President Pence in Orlando. If the governor can’t be bothered with a mask inside or outside, why should regular citizens?
Too many of them already think masks are part of a plot to take away their freedom. Conflicting early studies about the effectiveness of masks fueled that argument.
But research has evolved since March. The scientific consensus is exposure to aerosol droplets in tight spaces are the main virus transmitters.
Even if you insist that wearing a mask and keeping 6 feet away from strangers won’t help, what would it hurt? The alternative could be another lockdown.
“We’re coming to our residents today and saying, we need all their help to avoid that becoming a greater probability,” Demings said Monday.
Reopening was always going to be a balancing act. It’s going to require patience, cooperation and common sense.
As much as we’d like for coronavirus to be yesterday’s news, that’s not going to happen. So if you want to be off to the races, temper the Phase 4 mindset.
We’re looking at the guy waving the green flag.