Florida’s seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases is at its highest point since mid-April. Yet Florida has just gone to “Phase 2” reopening in 64 of 67 counties including especially hard hit ones like Collier, Lee, Orange and Hillsborough.
Enough pulling punches on this website expressing misunderstandings or differing political philosophies in the continued rise of COVID-19 numbers in this state as we approach a peak in new cases. The reality is this:
1- We have a class of political leaders in this state that never properly diversified our economy and have made Florida more dependent on “McJobs,” and tourism than ever before. Florida emerges from the COVID-19 lockdowns in worse shape economically than most of the country – but that’s our fault in this state. In addition, Florida’s reprehensible poor unemployment compensation system cannot handle this slowdown, so reopening is a solution for the political class rather than, well taking care of a years-old problem.
2- One tax abatement scheme after another has failed in this state, so our economy remains essentially built on eggshells – while Florida has exported it’s gangster and bullying style of political discourse nationally in the form of Donald Trump, The only successful tax abatement scheme of the Rick Scott years was attracting a single Fortune 500 relocation – Hertz Rent-a-Car. Florida’s tourist oriented economy which does not value educational or cultural growth can only attract these sort of companies that rely on tourism. Hertz filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last month.
3- We have fostered an anti-intellectual culture in this state, one where cognitive dissonance among fringe elements on the right is encouraged by the gangster-styled politicos referenced above. Health guidelines about wearing masks and social distancing are not avoided in many places, but violations of these suggestions are often flaunted by those on the right. “Individualism,” and “freedom” apparently also involve the right to infect thy neighbor with a potentially fatal respiratory illness.
4- Our elected leaders desperate to secure electoral success in November are more interested in reopening the economy and getting whatever business they can to Florida while other states remain cautious to reopen. Governor Ron DeSantis to his credit has tried at times to take a methodical, data-based approach, but DeSantis’ party is filled with elected officials of a different persuasion, thus the Governor has apparently caved.
5- Coronavirus impacts minority and poorer socioeconomic communities – non-GOP voting blocs and has impacted southeast Florida, the most Democratic part of the southeastern United States more than the rest of the state. Yet, forgotten is rock-ribbed GOP counties like Lee and Collier have had disproportionately more cases than other places of similar population and deaths have happened all over the state, even in rural counties.
So we are at a point in time where many, perhaps even a majority in our state outside of southeast Florida would sacrifice lives and public health so they can live and let live and get back to Florida’s rather backward styled economy.
It’s important progressive people and those concerned about public health for ALL of our citizens do not let Florida reopen the state without some degree of push back and open discussion. So far we see newspaper journalists doing their job, but too many other just letting things happen without the proper conversations. Perhaps it’s the aggressive vigilante styled intimidation of many of the right whether on social media or in person that prevents the proper discussion – or maybe we simply aren’t doing a good enough job on this.
AUTHORS NOTE: Minutes after this piece was published, Florida recorded another day with over a 1,000 new cases, taking the total to over 6,000 new cases statewide over the last five days.