Friends visiting from Tennessee got out just in time. Or they would have, had their view of Key West been the usual "drinking town with a tourist problem." They drove by and waved goodbye as Rusty and I were walking on Caroline Street yesterday morning in a race to get to the air conditioned car on another roasting day. A few hours later the officials in charge of alcohol sales sent down a decree across the state from Tallahassee: no more bars. I guess Sloppy Joe's was right to not waste time re-opening. I thought to cheer you barflies up with some chicken yoga from in front of the courthouse:
With around 22 million Floridians, this is the third largest state by population and second only to Texas in the number of daily coronavirus cases. Yesterday the Sunshine State reported 9,000 new cases of coronavirus and several hospitals around the state have no more ICU capacity. More precisely one in Homestead and three in St Petersburg, wrenching back it's old title of God's Waiting Room, from the days when it was a popular retirement center (when I lived there incidentally...). Rusty mentioned he was tired of handouts and in the spirit of independence for which I admire him he took a position of valet at Ocean Key Resort.
It is wearisome to repeat the obvious but considering the incubation period of the virus and considering how too many people preferred to ignore social distancing and others fought the mask requirements we can only assume that during the past three weeks visitors to the Keys have added significantly to the viral load. The number of infections two weeks to a month from now will surely be interesting. At the moment the official numbers stand around 188 and stationary at four deaths. The health department in the Keys is led (I use the term loosely) by a lawyer not an epidemiologist, who has led by being invisible so I don't put much stock in official figures. The Sheriff is running unopposed this Fall which is hardly surprising as he is the sole countywide official who has stepped up in this mess and offered old fashioned leadership. It took the Sheriff to close down the roads into the Keys, a controversial action that has now proved conclusively to my mind that lockdowns work.
Work. Ah, there's the rub.How do you lock down a tourist economy and expect people to starve? An Irish friend of mine remarked how slowly they are re-opening across the Atlantic and how low infection numbers are in the Republic, but the Irish government pays it's citizens $500 a week to stay in lockdown. In Florida you can't even access unemployment benefits and in a country where health benefits are all too often tied to your work, joblessness is a double disaster. Under these circumstances locking people down was a non starter. All the virus had to do was wait and indeed here we are...Politics however continues and the election for mayor promises to be extra interesting this year. Reduce cruise ship arrivals? In the year of joblessness thats looks like asking a lot:
Our own vacation plans are scotched as we pariahs from Florida can't drive north at will so Maine is out. For the geographically challenged you can't drive a van from Miami to Maine without crossing New York State or Canada and both are closed. New York is threatening fines and forcible quarantine of two weeks if you don't quarantine voluntarily and our Florida tag will be a bit of a giveaway even to New York State troopers...We are looking at Wisconsin via Chicago at this point though we may be restricted to the Southern States where the "no virus here" pretense is at its finest right now. In the end we are lucky to have no tickets, no reservations and no need for much social contact at all as we travel.
I don't remember my time on a ventilator fondly so I relish every day I can be out and about before the gathering of the crowds. I find myself enjoying the colors and vibrance of a city in bloom and that makes it a good day. It's blazing hot, like an airless September, but my past two days off saw no rain so I was happy to be out alone with Rusty to enjoy them. And my Tennessee friends were actually sorry to go so coronavirus aside, it's another day in a bar free paradise which as I don't much like bars isn't as bad as not being able to drive to the cold misty shores of the Pine Tree State.