The insinuation was clear: Floridians are idiots. Floridians are botching this.
On May 7 the (U.K.) Daily Mail ran a story with the following headline: "Floridians flock to newly-opened restaurants to eat on patios in the sun as the state loosens coronavirus restrictions — but most have already ditched their masks."
Several photos and videos accompanying the online story were shot at Sailor's Return in Stuart, a popular waterfront eatery, where several dozen patrons were seen sitting at outdoor tables "mere inches away from other customers" — and almost no one was wearing a mask.
The insinuation was clear: Floridians are idiots.
Floridians are botching this.
We sure hope that's not the case.
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Unfortunately, the Daily Mail's images jibe with other anecdotes from the past week: Packed restaurants, crowded beaches, few people wearing masks as suggested by the Centers for Disease Control, stores abandoning efforts to limit the number of patrons inside, leading to bigger crowds and long lines.
Too many of us seem determined to dash pell-mell toward "normalcy" and cast off the COVID-19 restrictions as quickly as possible.
After two months of being cooped up, the urge is understandable. But going too far, too fast could result in more infections and more deaths.
In our haste to pick up our lives where we left off, we could be making another round of lockdowns inevitable.
This "second wave," if it materializes, could be worse than the first.
How many restaurants that managed to make it through the initial shutdown would survive a second? How many retail outlets have enough cash on hand to endure round two?
How many families — especially those still waiting on a check for unemployment benefits that should have been delivered weeks ago — can survive?
We worry about small, local businesses in particular. The giants of the business world — Amazon, Walmart — are likely to emerge from this crisis even stronger. But what of our local mom-and-pop establishments? How many would survive a second wave — and what happens to our downtowns if they don't?
#Florida, you elected an idiot and you deserve the result.https://t.co/93fQNpKtXU— Eeyore, PhD (@hellmart) May 14, 2020
All this, then, demands prudent behavior from local residents and businesses.
However frustrated we are by the recent restrictions, however desperately our businesses need the revenue, we cannot behave as if the pandemic has ended and the threat of COVID-19 has evaporated.
We need to wear masks; we need to keep up the social distancing; we need to strictly observe the state guidelines for re-opening, and, yes, we need enforcement of violations.
To be sure, none of the Daily Mail's images from downtown Stuart showed definitive violations. Gov. Ron DeSantis' guidelines limit indoor seating at restaurants to 25 percent of capacity; all the pics were of outdoor seating.
And while outdoor tables are supposed to be 6 feet apart, and some of the tables in the images appeared to be closer than that, it was impossible to tell. The pictures looked bad; but how bad was it, really?
The answer: Bad enough to make Floridians look like fools in the eyes of the world.
That's bad enough. Let's not make it any worse.
This guest editorial was originally published by Treasure Coast Newspapers.
Isn't the sharpest Florida Man in the shed.https://t.co/0Wy7tdriQf— Whiskey Riff (@WhiskeyRiff) May 16, 2020