Florida mayor Curry not doing any favours by lifting restrictions

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought to surface many elements that we cared to only take lightly previously.

I have been taught a couple of things about the spread of a deadly virus – the possible effects of the density of a population and the impact of a dense population.

Put the two together, and voila, it is a recipe for disaster – which might already be unfolding while I enjoy my espresso indoors on an unusually chilly Monday morning.

I say unusually because May is fast approaching. Yet, some of the uncomfortable temperatures from winter have overstayed their welcome and are still lingering like an unwanted guest who enjoyed too much wine over Christmas dinner and then stuck around expecting supper as well.

Maybe it is nature’s way of telling Floridians to remain indoors instead of heading to the beach, where people would usually be basking in the scorching sun and tanning themselves this time of the year. That’s the reason a lot of Americans move south to the place they call the “Sunshine State” – the joy of warm weather.

Many of those who flock to Florida – where 20.5 per cent of the population are aged above 65, making it the state with the second oldest population in the country – are elderly folks who seek to enjoy their life after retirement without the dwellings of a punishing winter.

So imagine my horror when the mayor of Jacksonville (the most populous city in Florida – the third most populated state in the country), Lenny Curry, announced on April 17 the city was re-opening the beaches “with limitations”. That’s barely two weeks after the stay-at-home order was put into place and three weeks since they were closed to the public.

“We are near our peak and hospitalisations are at a level of manageability below our local capacity,” Curry said at the press conference on Thursday.

“That consistency for the last two weeks appears to be the flattening that we need. We’ll know for sure within the next week.

“This can be the beginning of the pathway back to normal life. Please respect and follow these limitations. Stay within the guidelines for your safety as well as for the safety of your neighbours.”

The essential activities mentioned are limited to participating in recreational activities consistent with social distancing guidelines such as walking (including pets), biking, hiking, fishing, running, swimming and surfing.

I live with my wife, Aruna, and four-year-old son, Dylan, on Jacksonville Beach, just under a mile away from the sandy oasis itself.

Despite the allure of sinking our feet into the sunbaked sand at the beach, we are intent on maintaining our observation of the stay-at-home despite the city’s somewhat dicey move of lifting the ban on Duval county beaches.

The decision has garnered mixed reviews amongst local folk, and rightly so. It reeks of complacency.

I worry because the curve that appears to be “flattening”, according to Mayor Curry, could be misleading.

The moniker “Florida man” that appears on headlines of outrageous news stories coming out of the state has become a running joke. These backwaters are infamously known to be the breeding ground for the unscrupulous and the ignorant.

The beaches were cordoned off in the first place as hordes thronged the beaches even at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Even right now with the stay-at-home mandate, many people – young and old – are still seen loitering without masks or gloves. They are generally careless in their daily endeavours, going about without respecting social distancing at places like restaurants and grocery stores.

The United States had logged 792,759 cases of Covid-19 and 42,514 deaths, the most in the world, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

But the official Covid-19 death count may, at least for now, be missing fatalities outside of hospitals, data and interviews show, reported ProPublica.

“Experts say it’s possible that some of the jumps in at-home deaths stem from people infected by the virus who either didn’t seek treatment or did but were instructed to shelter in place and that the undercount is exacerbated by lack of comprehensive testing. It’s also possible that the increase in at-home deaths reflects people dying from other ailments like heart attacks because they couldn’t get to a hospital or refused to go, fearful they’d contract Covid-19,” the website reported.

Right now, all we can do is wait and see how the hasty decision to allow public access to the famous beaches unravels.

But taking into account the density of the Florida population, the city could have done humanity a favour by restricting the movement of its people.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.

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