An Eyewitness COVID Report from Florida

 

Universal mask-wearing and social distancing.  And no lockdown in sight. Not being a elected public official from Texas, my spouse and enjoyed a nice trip to Florida sans doxxing and media, where we were grateful for warm weather; we’re blessed to have escaped to a decent (not spectacular) resort on short notice and traversed south via car just ahead of snow and ice storms that seem to have gripped most of the country and even parts of northern Mexico (not Cancun, apparently).

I had heard and read conflicting things about Gov. Ron DeSantis’ management of the COVID crisis – he never executed a lockdown of the state – or on citizens’ behaviors. A quick internet search is replete with endless excoriation of Florida’s handling of the virus and vaccine distribution, despite nearly 50 percent of the state’s seniors being vaccinated. I’d also heard that Floridians and especially workers were flaunting CDC safety standards, with crowded bars and limited masks. Some idiot dressed as the grim reaper has been spotted with media in tow along some of Florida’s beaches.

Were people actually wearing masks? Social distancing? Were retailers and other companies taking precautions? We know people and friends who‘ve been afflicted with COVID and lost loved ones. We grieve with them, along with 511,000 Americans who have also been lost to the China virus.

I’ll let the facts speak for themselves about how Florida is doing with the largest per capita concentration of those most vulnerable to COVID, people over 75 years of age. Schools never closed, restaurants were almost always open to indoor service (none we saw were overcrowded and patrons were generally well spaced). Mask wearing was universal everywhere we went.

Orlando Premium Outlets Vineland Ave.

Perhaps the most interesting observation was our visit to a nice outlet mall in Vineland, Florida, just west of Kissimmee. A diverse population of customers. Even though the mall is mostly outdoors (except for the individual retail stores), mask-wearing was mandatory, and everyone I saw complied. Most stores limited the number of patrons in the store (not all), and there were lines outside a few. The mall was busy, but everyone was on their best behavior. One store was even conducting temperature checks on each visitor. I’ve never seen that done anywhere else outside of hospitals or doctors’ offices. Admittedly, having spent most of my time in Pennsylvania since the pandemic began, we’ve been pretty severely locked down; most retail businesses were mostly shuttered or severely restricted through the November 2020 election, and I haven’t gotten out much.

Now it is true that the mask mandates come more from the private sector in Florida than the government. But I don’t see a problem with that, and the state government has long advised people to social distance and wear masks. He is trusting the businesses of his states to protect their customers. And nearly all seem to be. The approach, from what I saw, seems to be working, which should surprise no one. No business in their right mind takes chances with the safety of their customers, and doesn’t always need to run to the nanny state to impose often overly-punitive mandates and orders.

Yes, Florida has a lot of cases; its case positivity rate is still too high at over 6 percent, but remains generally on the decline, along with other statistics, and that’s true pretty much true most everywhere right now. Its mortality rate is 1.6, compared to a WHO rate of 3.6.

Here’s how many people died from COVID in Florida on the most recent date reported, Saturday, Feb 20: 1.

Another accusation recently hurled at DeSantis is that his vaccine distribution plan is racist, favoring well-off white communities over communities of color. Well, that’s been debunked courtesy of National Review magazine.

Deaths from COVID in nursing homes are well below that of states such as New York and Pennsylvania. And Florida leads the nation in the number of over 65 residents vaccinated (as one might hope, given that it leads the nation in its proportion of those over 65, at nearly 19% of its population. Florida has nearly 22 million residents now). Over 4 million doses have been administered with 2.6 million – over 2 million over 65 years of age – having been fully vaccinated

We felt comfortable in Florida. But we’ll let you know if come back to VA with an unwelcome viral hitchhiker. So far, so good. We aren’t living in fear, but we’re being smart. We’ve also spent a good amount of time in SC – same story. Florida’s own COVID website tells a more complete story.

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  1. Illiniguy Member
    Illiniguy
    @Illiniguy

    My wife and I drove to Florida last week and have found it to be an oasis of normalcy compared to Illinois. When the history of the pandemic is written, it’ll be interesting to see which states did it right and which didn’t. It’s becoming apparent, however, that the old adage “he who governs least, governs best” is going to be proven right once again.

    • #1
  2. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Sounds like Florida has a sensible compromise to trying and control Covid.

    Hopefully we are seeing this wave resolve, and the vaccine will start to make a difference.

    Certainly all of us in clinical medicine are ready for this to be over.

    • #2
  3. Caryn Thatcher
    Caryn
    @Caryn

    Thanks for the report.  Nice to see the difference that comes with good management.  Of course the MSM say otherwise.  

    • #3
  4. Ekosj Member
    Ekosj
    @Ekosj

    Friends from NJ confirm this.   They have family with an empty condo near Ft.Meyers, they are working remotely and their kids are doing remote learning.  So they bailed out ahead of the snow storms 2 weeks ago.   They reported that their neighbors were incredulous – ”Florida … you’re all going to die!?!?!”

    But they found much the same as reported in the OP.   Lots of masks in indoor places and at crowded outdoor spaces.   Social distance being observed.   But everything open and FL Kids in school.

    Its a model to be emulated.

    And just an FYI for the Jersey folks who think FL is a death trap.   NJ leads the nation in deaths per 1MM residents.    By a lot.   That’s not for lack of effort by NY.   The following from Worldometers:

    Deaths per 1MM population

    NJ – 2,593

    NY – 2,417

    MA – 2,296

    RI – 2,243

    Florida is #28 on the list at 1,392.   This is especially impressive given FL’s high concentration of seasoned citizens.

    • #4
  5. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    I live in FL and while your post is accurate right now, we were in a lockdown state in the spring. The governor put out a specific guideline that all un-necessary businesses had to close. I live in the Panhandle – while normally spring break is busier than a beehive, it was a ghost town – nothing open except grocery stores, and places like Lowes, drug stores, and you had to carry paperwork to show you were a necessary employee if you were on the road.  Beaches closed, shopping areas taped off – it was surreal. 

    We started slowly with 25% open I think late spring – only going to 50% slowly after monitoring. Even beaches on Memorial Day were only 50%. Of course so many were chomping to get out, they found a way – short term rentals were not allowed, but some fibbed and got around that. Hand sanitizer everywhere and masks provided as stores opened to limited capacity. Restaurants were take out only for a long time. I’ve been monitoring the new cases and deaths in my county from the beginning.  It showed an up and down when there was a holiday and people flocked here. They were testing everywhere – I had a head cold and went to local clinic – a tent outside tested me with the 15 min test – negative and I got meds, never going in.  You still can’t go inside the veterinarian clinic.  

    The first time I ate at a restaurant, I met a friend for lunch and we sat outside. The masked waiter said he forgot what to do – schools were closed for quite some time with remote learning, then the option to do 50/50. You are right – it was up to everyone to be responsible.

    • #5
  6. Doctor Robert Member
    Doctor Robert
    @DoctorRobert

    Kelly D Johnston: Yes, Florida has a lot of cases; it’s case positivity rate is still too high at over 6%, but remains generally on the decline, along with other statistics, and that’s true pretty much true most everywhere right now. It’s mortality rate is 1.6, compared to a WHO rate of 3.6.

    The positivity rate is not too high. A high positivity rate means that fewer people are being tested inappropriately.  The low case mortality rate that you quote shows this.

    • #6
  7. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    If COVID 19 virus was indeed a crisis, then it makes much more sense for everyone to start demanding an investigation into why the remedies were withheld.

    If there was anything near to 460,000 deaths nation wide, then why no remedies, Mr Fauci? Why make the actual available and cheap remedy, HCQ, the pariah medicine of the decade? This is  on you once again, as were the 17,000 Americans who died suffering from AIDS while waiting for you to come up with AZT, even though a cheap med called bactrim could have saved those people.

    Japan’s health officials allowed for ample prescription of real remedies: either HCQ protocol or favipiravir, an asthma medicine. How did the Japanese fare? They have had  two dead COVID victims for every 125 dead Americans. (As of Jan 13th 2021.) Expressed as a fraction: 2/125. Of course you won’t learn that statistic from Mainstream media. They will only tell you that since Nov 8th 2020 and Jan 13th, 2021 the Japanese  fatality rate doubled.

    • #7
  8. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill
    @CarolJoy

    Doctor Robert (View Comment):

    Kelly D Johnston: Yes, Florida has a lot of cases; it’s case positivity rate is still too high at over 6%, but remains generally on the decline, along with other statistics, and that’s true pretty much true most everywhere right now. It’s mortality rate is 1.6, compared to a WHO rate of 3.6.

    The positivity rate is not too high. A high positivity rate means that fewer people are being tested inappropriately. The low case mortality rate that you quote shows this.

    Is that true in Florida though? Trump was  demanding an investigation into the Florida system of testing. Some clinics and hospitals had 100% positive cases. I don’t know if those cases were all thrown out or what happened to them, in  terms of the overall current  day case report for COVID.

    • #8
  9. Buckpasser Member
    Buckpasser
    @Buckpasser

    I live in FL and will never be tested.  Where do I fit in with regard to “cases”?  Cases mean nothing.  Guess what?  I’ve also had the flu in previous years.  Oh, I forgot that Covid has killed off the ordinary flu.

    • #9
  10. Columbo Member
    Columbo
    @Columbo

    Mega Dittos KDJ!!

     

    • #10
  11. Hammer, The Member
    Hammer, The
    @RyanM

    I think much of that depends on where you are in Florida.  I think there are a lot of places in Florida where masking is virtually nonexistent.  That’s the good thing about having freedom of choice.  Those places are not having massively different outcomes, which should tell us something … if we were willing to listen.

    • #11
  12. Amelia Peabody Coolidge
    Amelia Peabody
    @Amelia

    I live in NE Florida, and the situation is the same here – masks pretty much everywhere and everything pretty much open.  My kids are in public high school in person 5 days a week with masks.  According to the school system’s Covid dashboard, there have been an average of about 10 cases of Covid per school since August, so fewer than two cases per school per month.  That’s students and staff combined.  One high school went remote for about a week after a homecoming party infected 40ish kids.  Other than that, the schools have remained open this whole school year for everyone who chose in-person learning.

    My 80-year-0ld mother goes to the gym three days a week.  Before everything closed down, her gym had moved into an old grocery store space, so they have lots of extra room.  They moved all their equipment around to leave extra space between all the machines.  We went to a movie last night and the theater left empty seats on either side of every group, which wasn’t really necessary since the theater was almost empty.  

    My church has had in-person services since June, with every other pew blocked off, masks, and a smaller choir who wear masks when they sing.  So everyone can take the level of risk they’re comfortable with.  Choose the virtual option if you’re not comfortable with in-person. 

    The coverage of DeSantis has been really appalling, as has the reporting about Floridians’ behavior.  There was never a statewide lockdown but different counties and cities implemented lockdowns.  And businesses made decisions that made sense for them. I’m sure you can find people acting irresponsibly nearby, just as you can everywhere else in the country.  

    • #12
  13. Southern Pessimist Member
    Southern Pessimist
    @SouthernPessimist

    I think that the only restriction placed by DeSantis on county governments related to masks was that they could not impose fines on persons who did not wear a mask. He did not force counties to lift the indoor dining restrictions but told the counties if they restricted indoor dining they had to show that there was a rational basis balancing the economic costs against the epidemicologic benefits.

    That seems like science to me.

    • #13
  14. Kelly D Johnston Coolidge
    Kelly D Johnston
    @SoupGuy

    An addendum to the post (thank you for the comments):

    The American Institute for Economic Research posted today a good analysis of how COVID has fared in California and Florida despite radically different strategies (and media coverage). Worth your time: https://www.aier.org/article/the-florida-versus-california-showdown/

     

    • #14
  15. The Scarecrow Thatcher
    The Scarecrow
    @TheScarecrow

    Illiniguy (View Comment):

    My wife and I drove to Florida last week and have found it to be an oasis of normalcy compared to Illinois. When the history of the pandemic is written, it’ll be interesting to see which states did it right and which didn’t. It’s becoming apparent, however, that the old adage “he who governs least, governs best” is going to be proven right once again.

    How much do I wish you were right. But you said it right there: “When the history of the pandemic is written . . . “.

    If the current bunch in power are given the chance to do the writing, history will remember Florida as being wildly irresponsible, and every Covid death will be magnified as proof of that. Every move the current administration made will have been the best possible thing to have done, all holdovers from the Trump administration will be shown to be responsible for millions of deaths, oh, and of course insurrection.

    • #15
  16. Brian Clendinen Member
    Brian Clendinen
    @BrianClendinen

    He was more of a coward than anything. Most of the state of on Lock-down by Cities and Counties. Including crufew he sat by and pretended he had nothing to due with it. He had Cops on the border for like two months stopping everyone.  He let the counties who run the public schools stop schools when the evidence was already apparent that Kids were not at risk but because Parents thought so he went along.  State parks were shut down for months. Many still don’t have people manning them like before.

     

    Also there is no statewide mask mandate. It all local which is not enforceable by the goverment just thru Mask Shamming and denial of service in some cases.

    He could of at anytime said no Crufews or lock-downs and school closer and did not.

     

     He has not done a good job nor has he done a bad one. He just looks competent compared to most governors. Most small mid-west states have done better and most Southern Governors have the same mixed record. Tennessee was managed a bit better. VA. NC worse. Texas about the same.

     

    He was like any other Politician he was just way better at reading the Mob than a lot of Governors. So please stop praising him. He let counties and cities get away with almost just as bad tyranny as some of the worse states it was just not for as long. When he could of stopped it at any time. So please stop he is not a good Governor its a false narrative.

    • #16
  17. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    Amelia Peabody (View Comment):

    I live in NE Florida, and the situation is the same here – masks pretty much everywhere and everything pretty much open. My kids are in public high school in person 5 days a week with masks. According to the school system’s Covid dashboard, there have been an average of about 10 cases of Covid per school since August, so fewer than two cases per school per month. That’s students and staff combined. One high school went remote for about a week after a homecoming party infected 40ish kids. Other than that, the schools have remained open this whole school year for everyone who chose in-person learning.

    My 80-year-0ld mother goes to the gym three days a week. Before everything closed down, her gym had moved into an old grocery store space, so they have lots of extra room. They moved all their equipment around to leave extra space between all the machines. We went to a movie last night and the theater left empty seats on either side of every group, which wasn’t really necessary since the theater was almost empty.

    My church has had in-person services since June, with every other pew blocked off, masks, and a smaller choir who wear masks when they sing. So everyone can take the level of risk they’re comfortable with. Choose the virtual option if you’re not comfortable with in-person.

    The coverage of DeSantis has been really appalling, as has the reporting about Floridians’ behavior. There was never a statewide lockdown but different counties and cities implemented lockdowns. And businesses made decisions that made sense for them. I’m sure you can find people acting irresponsibly nearby, just as you can everywhere else in the country.

    No theatres open yet in my area. The Catholic Churches were the first to open here. They had an issue of one exposed person so they closed down for two weeks and the priests and staff were tested – all ok and have been open since. They have three services on Sunday, a morning for all masks and people with health risks or elderly, later service where masks are now optional and everyone still wears them, and later a Hispanic service – masks required, and still offer on-line service. We’re being swamped by people moving here – bidding wars on property – sometimes sight unseen. I got a real estate card in the mail yesterday asking if we want to sell, as last year in my community 135 homes on the market, this year only 5!

    • #17
  18. Hammer, The Member
    Hammer, The
    @RyanM

    Brian Clendinen (View Comment):

    He was more of a coward than anything. Most of the state of on Lock-down by Cities and Counties. Including crufew he sat by and pretended he had nothing to due with it. He had Cops on the border for like two months stopping everyone. He let the counties who run the public schools stop schools when the evidence was already apparent that Kids were not at risk but because Parents thought so he went along. State parks were shut down for months. Many still don’t have people manning them like before.

     

    Also there is no statewide mask mandate. It all local which is not enforceable by the goverment just thru Mask Shamming and denial of service in some cases.

    He could of at anytime said no Crufews or lock-downs and school closer and did not.

     

    He has not done a good job nor has he done a bad one. He just looks competent compared to most governors. Most small mid-west states have done better and most Southern Governors have the same mixed record. Tennessee was managed a bit better. VA. NC worse. Texas about the same.

     

    He was like any other Politician he was just way better at reading the Mob than a lot of Governors. So please stop praising him. He let counties and cities get away with almost just as bad tyranny as some of the worse states it was just not for as long. When he could of stopped it at any time. So please stop he is not a good Governor its a false narrative.

    Well…  my governor is Jay Inslee.

    • #18
  19. Amelia Peabody Coolidge
    Amelia Peabody
    @Amelia

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):

    Amelia Peabody (View Comment):

     

    No theatres open yet in my area. The Catholic Churches were the first to open here. They had an issue of one exposed person so they closed down for two weeks and the priests and staff were tested – all ok and have been open since. They have three services on Sunday, a morning for all masks and people with health risks or elderly, later service where masks are now optional and everyone still wears them, and later a Hispanic service – masks required, and still offer on-line service. We’re being swamped by people moving here – bidding wars on property – sometimes sight unseen. I got a real estate card in the mail yesterday asking if we want to sell, as last year in my community 135 homes on the market, this year only 5!

    Our real estate market is crazy too.  A realtor friend said there’s basically no inventory under $350K.  Anything listed in that price range has multiple offers in days.  A part of me misses the days when everyone thought Jacksonville was a hick town that smelled like a paper mill, if they thought about us at all.  We didn’t have to listen to so many people telling us how they did it up north.  

    • #19
  20. Max Knots Member
    Max Knots
    @MaxKnots

    I’m semi-retired, in an especially susceptible group (post transplant), but have had no difficulty traveling across this country, including a road trip from Michigan to Albuquerque and back last October, and another this February, from just south of LA, across I-10 to Jacksonville, FL. I’ve worn a basic cloth mask with a paper filter when at stores and public spaces (hotels, restaurants when available, and gas stops). Maybe they help; maybe they don’t. It often seems like so much COVID theater. 

    Throughout my travels, I’ve felt the risks of the virus to be somewhat less than the other risks I could encounter. (Example: I missed the Texas ice-storm highway accident by less than a week.) I’m under no illusion that COVID doesn’t exist, but my observations and extensive reading have convinced me that it is the most hyper-sensationalized virus in history. The “experts” know less than they pretend and shamelessly flip-flop without repercussions. The virus-justified economic shutdown was a cudgel to attack the former president and his administration. Half the country was perfectly happy to be confined to their homes, having their basic needs filled by delivery folks whose exposure was simply accepted. The other half labored or tried to, despite the risks because their livelihoods required it. Some city folk just don’t understand the long chain of voluntary economic transactions needed to supply their food and shelter. 

    Within my own family some believe that masks and their wearing are the only thing standing between them and being “murdered” by some thoughtless and cruel maskless-scofflaw.  They brandish the word “science” as a club to suppress dissenting views. Belief is independent of actual data. (Ex: school shutdowns) They trade freedom for a delusion of perfect safety. I refuse to do so.

    Bottom line: With a little care, you can still travel. The hotels were clean and welcoming and food can be found, especially now that most states have reopened restaurants. One note of caution: Some of the states have kept their highway rest areas closed. In those states you will need to find a truck stop or Speedy’s for restrooms.

    Otherwise, go forth and support your countrymen if you are able. Don’t let fear rob you of your remaining days. We’ll get through this, eventually.

    • #20