Florida has to do better

Masks are mandatory and social distancing is enforced in Chicago. Photo by Rachel O. Beauty

We all know that Florida is one of the few outlying states that refuse to take the COVID-19 virus seriously. This is due in part to the lack of leadership from Gov. Ron DeSantis. DeSantis seems more concerned with the economy than the actual lives it takes to create the economy.

Public domains like restaurants, clubs, bars and department stores are open at full capacity. Not to mention the complete lack of masks. Students are promoting parties, showing up en masse to potentially put themselves in danger for a drink or two. It feels like the twilight zone for people who attempt to stay home and avoid people at all costs to remain uninfected.

Watching others live a carefree life from a self-imposed cage is positively unnerving. I am literally ready to rip my hair out.

Spring is the time for college students to come out of hibernation, shed those clothes and enjoy all that nature has to offer. But we can’t, or at least we’re not supposed to. It’s as if Florida is living in its own time, its own world and by its own rules. Even in public places like airports, employees are forgetting their masks and passengers are unmasking in the terminals. Look, I hate masks just like everyone does, but there has to be some sense of personal  responsibility and regard for other’s health.

It took a visit to my hometown of Chicago for reality to set in: the state’s ability to recover from the virus fully depends on its leadership. Fortunate enough for me, the leadership in Chicago bears the weight of the pandemic. For Chicagoans, the pandemic never left.

Everyone in my view wore a mask inside establishments. Businesses actually enforced regulations, provided functioning hand sanitizer and limited customer capacity. Even thrift stores took the proper precaution by not operating at full capacity. I’m referring to the Goodwill on Washington Boulevard, to be exact. My mother, sister and I stood in a line that eventually began to wrap around the store. Yes, it was torturous to watch the shoppers on the inside take their precious time, but the store was at full capacity in adherence to COVID-19 protocol. And while I was inconvenienced, I knew the staff was enforcing rules for the safety of the customers.

During my trip, there were many times where I told my mom that in Florida you can do whatever you want. The concept of complete freedom might initially sound intriguing. However, when the context of that freedom is put into perspective of a pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than half a million Americans, that freedom begins to teeter along the lines of selfishness and disregard.

There are states and cities that are taking COVID-19 seriously, with some people not stepping foot in other’s homes for the duration of the year. The scales are completely unbalanced: there are people who are abiding by the rules to keep others safe but these same people are suffering from the consequences of those who refuse regulation.

Just to be clear: no one likes regulation, no one likes wearing a mask, and few like being contained in their homes. But sacrifices have to be made. And Florida simply has to do better.