I just returned home from a week in Destin, Florida. I was shocked by some of the very casual approaches taken by many people in response to COVID. The worst places seemed to be small establishments, such as local restaurants, liquor stores etc. Its no wonder that Florida recorded more new COVID cases in July (318,000) than any other state in the country.
Many small stores are not up to the challenge
In many small, local stores, facemasks were not mandatory. I found this odd – and unfortunate since national stores in the same area (Publix, Whole Foods) – had absolutely no problems mandating facemasks and achieving high rates of compliance.
When I spoke to the person behind this counter he was resigned to the fact that there was little he could do to change customers.
Pick up Pizza was the worst for me
Twice during my trip I got take out pizza. Both establishments were a DEBACLE for COVID preventation. None of these places had even the basics covered. Most servers wore face masks and that was about it.
At Fat Clemenza’s I had to stand in a narrow entry way while waiting for food, while many servers and customers walked in the same narrow passage. To add to the effect the booking / reservation table was a total bottleneck. Why didn’t they move some of their front of house operation outside and better protect their customers?
At one point – 3 of us, all wearing facemasks were within 1 foot of each other. I had a mini rant and stepped outside. Seriously – does anyone think a home made cloth facemask someone protects you enough to stand closely to a complete stranger! It was nuts!
National chains lead the way
Thank goodness for some sensible leadership in the many of the national chains I go to. At least here I think they are putting customers first. Starbucks, Five Below, Whole Foods, Publix – all had mask wearing requirements – and enacted social distancing policies. GOOD FOR THEM – GOOD FOR US!
How bad is Florida anyway?
I could be accused of over-reacting if Florida’s numbers were not so bad. Lets look at them. Florida has 480,000 confirmed cases of COVID. Much of the news has focused on California recording 500,000 cases – but that ignores the fact that California has 40 million residents versus Florida’s 22 million.
Florida is #3 for COVID cases per million of population (since inception)
Florida cases are outpacing all other states.
Florida recorded 317,952 new COVID cases in the month of July. Think about that – 2/3rds of all of Florida’s COVID cases occured in the past month. Florida’s total was bigger than California (270,000) – even though CA has the much higher population (see above).
Lets add another context point – NY state – similar population – recorded 21,581 new cases in July! Florida had 15x as many COVID cases as NY in July.
Florida fatalities are on the rise
With the peak in cases recorded just a couple of weeks ago, expect fatalities to continue the upward trend for perhaps another month. The above chart is showing per million of population – in raw numbers that’s still over 9,000 new cases per day – and 177 deaths per day on average. On July 31st Florida recorded 257 deaths in a single day.
In the month of July, Florida recorded 3,338 COVID deaths almost 6 times that of NY (596 in the same period).
Pressure on hospitals remains
With the record number of people testing positive in July – this creates tremendous burden on hospital systems. Well over 300,000 people have being diagnosed positive in the last month. If even a small percentage require medical attention, that’s a huge burden on the hospital system.
The conditions in Florida are ripe for further spreading of the virus.
Small businesses that are acting like this is a temporary inconvenience need to get with the program and rethink their processes and layouts – just as the national chains have done.
COVID isn’t leaving Florida anytime soon in these conditions. It’s the perfect environment for COVID to thrive.