By Emily Cortes
COVID-19 cases in Florida are declining for the first time since the start of the Fall 2020 semester, which may be hard to believe since restrictions and social distancing guidelines have not been strictly followed or enforced. The Tampa Bay nightlife has been alive and well with a combination of local college students and tourists. Although Tampa Bay businesses are making back lost coins from the pandemic, what do these implications mean for the health of the city’s residents?
Macdinton’s Soho is one popular bar that has taken a hard hit during the pandemic. They conveniently began their remodeling of their outside patio in the middle of lockdown last year, but ran into legal issues this past January. The popular spot was cited and ticketed for failing to obey the “sit down” rule, and allowing their large influx of patrons to roam freely, of course, maskless.
Another club located in Ybor City is facing the same dilemma, and up until the Super Bowl weekend, was only allowed to have guests occupy the rooftop dance floor so partygoers were not confined inside. However, some other bars in Ybor City are cracking down to avoid fines they can’t afford, or even a complete shutdown. Some even vowed 7th Avenue all together if they were going to be confronted for having their masks down while they take a sip of their drink.
Not only are some residents exhausted from COVID-19 and the severity of it all, but tourists are coming to Tampa to seek refuge from the cold and confident winter. Some say the light restrictions are drawing them to Florida, and others say that they are visiting, but are weary of the carelessness shown by those who run the state, and those who live in it.
Many people who have not contracted the virus have been the ones to face the brunt of quarantine. By staying disease free, you are helping to stop the possible spread to others. People from out of state see Floridians are reckless and irresponsible, but why isn’t the response the same inside Florida?
A common reference people from outside the state like to draw up is the comparison between state restrictions and guidelines. Those guidelines are put in place by local and state government officials who believe that by following these rules, its residents will be safe.
But what is the state’s goal? It can’t be to ease the spread of COVID-19, because that has not been done, and it can’t be to prevent rising death numbers, because the state and local government have shown little concern about the elderly population, the state’s main priority is their local businesses. Florida’s money maker is their tourist appeal, and they have remained determined to keep the tourist funds flowing.
An even scarier notion is the people who visit the area who have not yet been exposed to COVID-19. Spending one night at a restaurant and having a few drinks after can easily expose you to the disease. And if you’ve booked a week long trip, your symptoms do not even have enough time to kick in and show up on a COVID-19 test.
Then, those visitors must travel back home, possibly exposing everyone who flew that day, and then bringing the virus back to other communities that may have a more vulnerable population, or could be under resourced and be unable to assist a large amount of patience if a break out were to occur.
Lastly, the question of “herd immunity” is raised. I always catch myself in COVID-19 discussions saying, “I think they already had it.” Which, in scientific terms, doesn’t mean much, since we do know people have tested positive for it twice, and we are unsure of how long the antibodies can last, and if the antibodies from one strain protect you from another strain.
It may seem okay to ignore the reality of COVID-19 and what it has turned our world into in 11 long, yet short months, but the ethics behind the disease is where the root of the problem exists. Even though most people in the Tampa Bay area have already been exposed to COVID-19, 102,000 cases and 1,342 deaths were the result of it all.
With the science and the tools readily available to save lives, Floridians who resort to “survival of the fittest mode” have a more barbaric attitude, rather than a progressive one.