by Laurie Swanson, Chair, Mid-Keys Democrats

We have a failed federal government in many ways.  Six months into the Covid-19 pandemic (the Trump Administration was warned in early January) and still no comprehensive, national response from the President, showcasing the federal government’s ineptitude at every level.  We, in Florida, and other states, are now being overrun by Coronavirus, yet Tallahassee and Gov. DeSantis refuse to take action and to mandate even minimally protective measures, like face masks.  Our contact tracing capacity is woefully insufficient as the number of cases in the state rises exponentially—upward of 10,000 cases per day some days.  There is no ‘stay at home’ order in place, even though the case load in Florida outpaces all records previously set—very much like New York as it went into total crisis mode back in March.  For weeks we have been seeing bars chock full of tourists, drinking and spreading the virus, making it impossible to know just who gave it to whom as the travelers are transient, in town for only a week or so.

Until June, the Florida Keys had a controlled virus spread.  Then the hoards descended, mostly from upper Florida, and now there are cars from all over the county, including Maine, Washington, and California, as well as the usual from the North East and the Upper Midwest.  On our walks in Key Colony Beach, there is little effort to distance.  Younger people pass oldsters making no effort to stay six feet away.  Also, there is no consolidated effort to educate or enforce the masking, the distancing, the staying home.  Heaven knows the hand sanitizing, if it follows the other safety measures, is probably slapdash.  For those who say it is like the flu, the flu killed 3,100 people in Florida in all of 2018 while Covid-19 has killed 3,500+ so far in 2020 and is projected to kill more than 8,000 before year’s end.

To stop the spread now, we need to lock down again.  Gov. DeSantis should have taken the CDC and the Florida Health Department criteria for re-opening seriously.  Instead, prancing in front of President Trump, he cavalierly opened bars, tattoo parlors, hairdressers, restaurants, etc., playing Russian roulette with our lives, our economy, and our health.  We are on red alert for becoming the next New York, and this is mostly due to the lack of leadership from the top levels of our government, trickling down to our local officials.  To get people to do the work that needs to be done to get this virus under control will be doubly hard because of all the mixed messages from the President, and even from our own county Commissioners.

At one point, I thought our Commissioners got the message.  The check point was placed at the entrance to the Keys, masks were mandatory, dine-in restaurants were ordered shut (take-out only), we were told to leave your house as little as possible.  Then they removed the blockade with no tough orders to stay home, to stay away, to wear a mask and to sanitize hands.  Nope. Just come on down and go to the bar, go to the beach, go to the tourist sights, rent every house to the max, refuse to wear the suggested mask, party on your boats, party at your rental, walk close to old people who are trying to get a little exercise or food.  Act like it is spring break.  We know how that worked out.

We have squandered our chance to restart our economy sooner rather than later.  The virus case load needs to be the driver here, and we must follow the criteria for opening set forth by authorities in the field of public health, like those at Harvard, Johns Hopkins, or the NIH.  I would like to say the CDC, but they have passed along too many mixed messages and refused to call out the President and his lies about the virus.  I do not know if we can believe them.  Until we have leadership who can bend the will of the most intransigent virus deniers, we will have to put up with sickness, death, and a failing economy.  That is the price we pay for ignorance, and for a failure of leadership.