Recently, a local businessman and attorney who is not involved in partisan politics or opinion letters sent a letter to the Key West Mayor and Commissioners.  Following is an edited version:

Limiting or eliminating mandatory mask requirements would be counterproductive, dangerous, and would delay economic recovery.

It is undisputed that Covid 19 spreads by someone who is infected exhaling germs, causing others to inhale them, and this then spreads exponentially unless something prevents it. It’s not rocket science to conclude that putting a filter between you and the air around you prevents the spread.  It’s simple logic. 

If we want to have more businesses survive and flourish, and our lives be more normal, we have to conquer this disease.  If masks help us get there, why would anyone reject requiring masks where people are interacting?  If everyone (citizens, tourists, and politicians) acted responsibly and agreed to protect others and themselves, it would be easy to require masks.  But the reality is too many of us don’t act reasonably and, therefore, an enforceable ordinance is required.   

As to the idiotic idea that government doesn’t have the  right to require its citizens to wear masks, any lawyer will tell you the Constitution specifically grants government the authority to pass laws to protect the health, safety and welfare of its citizens. That is why we pass seat belt laws, set speed limits, and establish other laws that protect us.

People don’t have the right to violate laws that are legally created.  Our Mayor and Commissioners are caretakers of our community and have the obligation to take actions, no matter how unpopular, that protect Key West. Requiring masks and following science is one such necessary action.

by John Howe

I’m sure most Americans, especially the friends and families of the more than 200,000 Americans (and counting) who have died from COVID-19, don’t like hearing President Trump say, over and over, that he has the virus “under control.”

For more than a month after scientists told him about it, Trump wasted precious time (and American lives) flip-flopping between praising and criticizing China’s response, imposing slipshod China travel restrictions, calling the pandemic a “hoax,” and insisting that it would magically “disappear” without a vaccine. A Columbia University study later estimated that 36,000 American lives would have been saved if broad social distancing had started only a few weeks earlier.

Trump then suggested injecting disinfectants and hyped hydroxychloroquine as a possible therapeutic, even after medical experts warned that both treatments would be dangerous. He threatened to withhold funding from the World Health Organization. He urged local economies and schools to reopen before it was safe to do so, recklessly ignoring guidelines developed by his own administration’s experts at the Centers for Disease Control.

After many weeks of deriding masks, again ignoring medical science, Trump reluctantly decided he wouldn’t look too bad wearing one, but only as an optional accessory, not a public health requirement.

Meanwhile, he refused to fully invoke the Defense Production Act and develop a national strategy for actually dealing with the virus. Instead he dumped that huge challenge on states and municipalities that don’t have the vast resources of the federal government, dooming them to squabble over scarce supplies of test kits, ventilators and personal protective equipment.

As of August 28, the United States, with only four percent of the world’s population, had by far the most COVID-19 cases of any country. No wonder most Americans, including many Republicans, don’t trust anything Trump says about this unprecedented national disaster and epic personal failure that he’s still trying to dodge. It’s now up to the rest of us to “stop this nonsense” (as Dr. Anthony Fauci, our nation’s top epidemiologist, has politely suggested), beat back the virus, then fully restore our economy, with mutual respect, true grit, and dependable science.

Fake News: “False news stories, often of a sensational nature, created to be widely shared online for the purpose of generating ad revenue via web traffic or discrediting a public figure, political movement, company, etc.” 

–Time Magazine

Tips to spot Fake News

There has been an explosion of misinformation and conspiracy theories on the web, amplified by social media, about COVID19 and current events. Online rumors and misinformation have created confusion, chaos and some hoaxes have induced violence with loss of life. To discern today’s online experience, multiple studies have suggested everyone needs to be digital media literate with the ability to evaluate information on various digital platforms.

To counter Fake News, Sarah Blakeslee and her team of librarians at California State University, Chico (CSU Chico) developed the CRAAP test as a guide to discern whether or not a web item is Fake News. It has become widely used by higher education librarians at universities to educate incoming students about Fake News.

The CRAAP test aims to make it easier for everyone, not just educators and students, to determine if their sources can be trusted. By employing the test while evaluating sources, anyone can reduce the likelihood of using unreliable information or fake news.

In researching sources for this blog post, I found that one of the best compendium of articles, infographics and videos about fake news is a web site developed by Madison Area Technical College.  It has resources to explain why Fake News is created, tips for spotting Fake News, CRAAP test, fact checking and other topics related to Fake News. Miami Dade College also has a good web site about Fake News as well. Facebook which is known to be fertile digital grounds for viral misinformation spread, has taken some steps to educate users to identify false information.  Their “Tips to Spot False News” consists of ten strategies readers can use to identify misleading stories.

Election 2020 and Fake News

Staying informed online for election information has its risks. Unlike a print publisher, digital news providers can observe, store, and analyze your every news choice, how long you interacted with it, whether you shared it and what you did after viewing it. With such data, it can filter what you see, showing you more content that aligns with your worldview—essentially putting you in your very own “news bubble.”

BEWARE – Sometimes this filtering leads readers to made-up or fake news, such as stories about 5G cellphone towers found to cause COVID-19(!) or that drinking bleach kills the virus (it does not!!!).  Facebook and other social media have taken steps to identify such hoaxes, but more are posted every day and some get past their filters. Also, they get millions of “likes” from users.

Using the CRAAP test and other digital media literacy tools, we can inspect election news for accuracy and validity.

According to the averages of public presidential polls, Vice President Joe Biden is clearly ahead in both the popular vote and the vote in key swing states.  Unless there’s a sudden major event that turns the race upside down, the presidency is Joe’s to lose.  Republican advisors are hoping that President Trump can pull off an October surprise or a knockout in a nationally televised debate—either by outrageous attacks or a significant Biden misstep.

Some Biden advisors ask “why risk a debate,” and recommend that Joe be upfront, refuse to debate, and just run out the clock, even if that puts him in an unprecedented position that will be exploited by Trump and his ilk.

An astute friend suggested an interesting third option based on Trump’s own unprecedented position in refusing to disclose his taxes and finances.  Fairness and transparency are important if the American people are to get relevant information about both Presidential candidates, yet Trump is the only Presidential candidate in modern history to refuse to disclose his finances and potential conflicts of interest.

Here is what I propose: Joe could agree to debate Trump—but only if Trump follows the same rules and traditions of releasing his income tax and financial reports that every other Presidential candidate in recent history has.  This approach might put Trump on the horns of a dilemma because the public focus would be on his honesty and criminality, instead of on why Joe is hesitant to debate. This strategy assumes Trump loses either way—he loses his last chance to debate, or he loses by confirming that he’s a crook.

What would you advise Joe to do: Debate?  Refuse? Or refuse to debate unless Trump releases his finances?

Local artists respond to the current health crisis.  


Lyrics, vocals & ukulele: Karen Grant

Musicians: Gary Zimmerman, Daryl Brooks & Kenny Raskin

Videographer: Damali Phipps

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.