A View from Inside a Red State on COVID-19
[Part of this column was published in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. I live in Sarasota and write a bi-weekly column in the Business Weekly section called “The Futurist”]
In early April, it became clear that the White House and the federal government were not going to lead America to collectively come together to face our public health challenge. What a lost opportunity for our country! America comes together to face threats. We did it to defeat the Axis powers in WWII. We fought the Soviet Union and won the Cold War. We were in competition with them to get to the moon first. We as a nation can rise to any occasion. We have in the past and right now, at the end of June we might have had a collective sense of “we did it!”
In April, I said to my wife and friends that there were now two things outside my home that I had no control over: the COVID-19 virus and ignorance and lack of leadership on the part of the federal government. I can wear a mask, practice social distancing, stay at home, keep my health and immune system strong. I cannot deal with politics that take precedence over my health and the health of all fellow citizens. Hence the title of this column.
I never write “political” columns but the use of the word “red” is appropriate here because with the exception of California, all the states that are now spiking have Republicans as Governors. Every single one of them did not follow the White House guidelines on the opening up of states. Upon opening, none of them could bring themselves to tell citizens to wear masks. Given the certainty of science on the wearing of masks, the only reason they refused to put ourhealth first had to be that the President does not wear a mask and they didn’t want to cross him. I am open to any honest and true evidence to the contrary.
Writing about the future of tourism in the Gulf Coast of Florida – an extremely important industry-I wrote the following in the Sarasota Herald Tribune:
The short-term future of tourism and travel to Florida is dreadful, a calamity. Why? Governor DeSantis [GD] and his administration. Consider these data points:
- GD did NOT follow the White House Corona Task Force guidelines[CDC] on opening up. The simple rule was that a state had to wait until it had 14 consecutive days of cases declining. The northern states we all saw have horrific times with the virus are now all on the decline because they did this. GD did not wait
Governor DeSantis \kept the state’s beaches open for spring break, angering the country. Subsequently cellular tracking technology showed that all the spring breakers went back up north – primarily to the North East and the Midwest. GD’s decision caused virus cases in other states. This was a topic of national media for three weeks.
- GD, with a lot of bravado during the lock down, stopped cars at our northern borders to see if they had been in NY and NJ, and if they had, these drivers either had to turn back or go into a 14-day quarantine.
- In the past few days, Governor Cuomo of NY suggested that now that his state has done the right thing to bring the curve down and Florida is a new “hot spot” and “epicenter” of the country, that he might force anyone from FL or who has traveled here, will have to undergo a 14 day quarantine. So, don’t think of going up to NY, Connecticut or New Jersey soon.
- GD fired one Rebekah Jones, the state employee who built the state’s on-line dashboard about the virus, because she refused to put up false data and the direction to depress reported numbers. Jones has since rebuilt a web site that is more open, faster, and does not manipulate any numbers. Every healthcare and medical professional I know uses this site www.floridacovidaction.com . She is making it go by taking donations from grateful people whose health is largely determined by decisions made with the best data available. GD, in this action, and others where data was either underreported or delayed, has shown to the country that all is not transparent in the state of Florida relative to the virus.
- As of this writing – 6/23 due to newspaper deadline for my column- Florida is spiking in an alarming rate. Prior to the “opening up” the highest number of new deaths on any day was 1,200, and there were several of those. Since 6/1 18 of 19 days have been higher than that, with the last few days with the count over 3,000 a day.. In the last week there were more than 22,000 cases, 20% of all cases since March 1 – in one week! [NOTE: as of 6/30, Florida has had more that 25,000 new cases in the last 72 hours]
- This means that Floridians are not welcome elsewhere. I know people who had planned to fly up north to visit friends and family once direct service to cities is restored in July at SRQ. airport. They have been told by their friends and family- lovingly- that since Florida is a new hot spot, to please not come until the state gets the number under control.
- Orlando, not waiting for leadership from GD, has made the wearing of masks mandatory.
- Since GD opened up the state, people who know I live here have repeatedly said that the TV coverage of the state shows most people without masks in the state and that they have no intention of coming here anytime soon.
- Florida is a virus hotspot in the only plague nation remaining in the developed countries. Even people I have spoken to in Europe this past week know that the virus is out of control in our state. The EU is considering putting restrictions on US citizens to travel there. So, our pathetic national effort, and the now widespread perception that both GD has tried to manipulate the numbers and we have lost control of the virus in our state is going to force Floridians to either accept quarantines when they travel internationally, or to not travel. Of course, when citizens of the EU learn that Americans must be quarantined, they will think twice before visiting our country and our “hot spot” state. The world now thinks of the US as a “plague nation” and Florida a hot spot within.
- Horribly for Sarasota and Manatee counties, the number of new cases each day is exceeding the total number of available ICU beds in each county, on some days it is several times the number of available beds.
I think the following has high probability of happening during the month of July:
- Cases will continue to climb in the state and in our area. National coverage on that.
- By mid-July the national media will be showing stressed out medical staffs in hospitals all around the state saying they have run out of beds and more people need help than can be given. Remember all those heroic but totally broken frontline workers in NY in April? July will be Florida’s turn to shock the country- and world- that we have been overwhelmed. All the while media showing people not wearing masks and not social distancing. Given his past lack of transparency I would not be surprised if GD tried to block media coverage of our state’s impending health catastrophe. He will fail of course, but if he does try, that again will be reported nationally.
- The NBA might well reconsider the plan to hold an abbreviated season in Orlando
- MLB will fully close all minor league and major league activities in the state
- The GOP convention, slated for August in Jacksonville, will be problematic at best. All of these decisions will be reported within the context of a health crisis in the state. As of this writing, polls show that people in Jacksonville do NOT want the convention there.
- It will be reported that Disney World is not getting visitors as families are going to theme parks elsewhere, so they won’t put the children at risk by coming to Florida
So, how does the future of tourism in Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties look for now through December? A complete unmitigated disaster. Even the forecasts I made in the last column will be optimistic.
Then of course is an expected higher level of tropical storm and hurricane activity until December 1. And a second virus wave in the fall.
Tourism will not come back to Florida until Florida gets on top of its’ public health crisis. Right now, we are going in the other direction.
- ON 6/23 GD changed the reporting rules for the state, no longer listing the available ICU beds or the number of hospitalizations! Doctors and public health experts, have already called this “data manipulation” on national TV. Once again GD seems to be putting politics and PR ahead of concerns for our collective health. I had been feeling guilty about being so hard on GD, then this news comes in. Don’t feel guilty anymore!
The near-term future of America to a large degree is up to us to come together to win over adversity, across the board. I think we can!