Landing at Palm Beach International Airport, I was ready to see how the other half lived. The COVID-sane half, that is.
Our family hadn’t left New York since March. We had read about how Florida was able to maintain a case rate similar or lower than New York’s while shunning our crippling lockdowns. Still, we were apprehensive. “Be careful down there, no one wears a mask,” was typical of advice I got from well-meaning friends.
And indeed, Florida has a reputation as one of the looser states. In mid-April, after a short lockdown, Gov. Ron DeSantis gave the green light for beaches to open. “Wait two weeks!” the naysayers urged back then. But two weeks came and went, and Florida’s numbers remained relatively steady after a peak in mid-July.
Stepping off the plane, we noticed something odd: Everyone was, in fact, masked. And keeping their distance. There was hand sanitizer everywhere. The COVID “Mad Max” world was nowhere to be found. Yes, everything was open, but precautions-wise, southern Florida looked a lot like New York.
The main difference: Masks aren’t worn in no-risk situations. In Gotham, it’s very common to see people masked even when all alone on empty streets. Small children wear masks outside. In Florida, we saw maskless children playing together outside. It looked like the Before Times.
Which is a good thing: We act like it’s no big deal to wear masks even where risk is nonexistent. But, of course, it does matter. In Florida, we saw the smiling faces of strangers for the first time in nine months. It’s hard to overstate how much that mattered to our well-being and the feeling of normality. There’s also the element of pandemic fatigue: Wearing a mask all the time, even when unnecessary, will at some point discourage use when it actually matters.
It’s a lie, though, that Floridians aren’t taking the novel coronavirus seriously. What they have done is discard the policies that don’t work, while retaining the ones that do.
Gov. Cuomo, on the day he closed indoor dining in New York City, noted that COVID spread in restaurants amounted to 1.4 percent of cases. In Florida, they decided numbers like that meant indoor dining stays open. In New York, we foolishly didn’t.
Florida puts New York to shame in rational pandemic policies – New York Post