Things got weird on Monday. In a time of widespread general weirdness that's a difficult thing to say. Yet something changed in Key West after the city manager sent out a notice advising everyone has to wear a mask everywhere in the city. And with that, the only places you can be in Key West without a mask are at home or in your car. Or in your workplace with the door closed to your office if your boss allows.
I can't define what changed but a change there was. Florida has been racking up insane numbers of positive tests every day, between ten and fifteen thousand new cases daily and numbers in the Keys have been rising steadily with only 17 ICU beds throughout the county. The city of Marathon has a tent hospital with four beds and only one of them ICU equipped...thanks Hurricane Irma.
The roadblock in March made for a strange apocalypse in the keys and then the pressure got too much and we reopened to tourism to get money flowing. For a while some people seemed to think the crisis was over but it should be clear by now there is a lag between infection, symptoms and severity of illness so it takes a while to reap that which we have sown. So now after a brief period of normal life for the unwary we find ourselves back in crisis mode. It feels like the rollercoaster will never end.
Politicizing wearing a mask has turned into a social and economic nightmare that has us by the throat. I should have thought burning your social security card would be a better symbol of freedom from The Man than not wearing a mask and infecting everyone you know and love. But my rational mind doesn't compute like many other people apparently so I stand on the sidelines and wonder at the weirdness of those Other People.
I wandered around the Pez Garden at 5:30 in the morning checking the statues of famous people from Key West history and I thought about the wars and alarums they survived and the plagues that were part of life in the 19th century when no one understood where yellow fever came from. They plugged ahead and did what needed to be done and buried their dead. I was reading about the 'Flu epidemic of 1918 incorrectly called the Spanish 'Flu and apparently there was an endless debate even then about wearing a mask. Nothing much changes it seems.
As the virus seems to clamp tighter every day on the Sunshine State I try not to look too far ahead. Europeans are bracing for the second wave so they are going out to beaches and bars while they can as they have put the first wave behind them. New York state seems to be out of the weeds after a couple of months so I am trying to hope that by late September Florida will have calmed down too with God knows how much illness between now and then. I have no facts to back up my hopes but there it is.
I expose my wife and her failed immune system to the virus by coming to work but we do what we can which is all any of us can hope to do. I hope our very cautious RV road trip will help shake off this siege mentality that is gripping me, but if the world outside is as crazy and mask-free as iu have heard we may have to retreat back to the Keys and get back into isolation once again. If we don't wear masks, as feeble as they seem, it feels as though this will never be over.
Thirteen million people worldwide have the virus and even our President is finally wearing a mask. Those two facts alone should tell us all something: we missed the boat on controlling this thing. I wish we had this mask ordinance in March but hindsight is too easy. Masks it is now, until they sound the All Clear.