Coronavirus in Florida: Closures, Panic and Uncertainty
March 22, 2020 - Week 2 in Florida
These past 2 weeks have felt more like 2 months. So much is happening everyday and the virus is spreading more than just the sickness of the disease. It is spreading fear, anxiety and uncertainty.
This pandemic is changing us and everyone will remember this time and how it affected their lives. School age kids will always have this story to tell. Those who are graduating, either high school or college, may always remember this time as a time they missed out on all the social end of year gatherings including the prom and graduation ceremonies. Kids working on getting athletic scholarships may be affected by the timing of this pandemic.
Weddings are being postponed, family vacations are put on hold with no future dates to plan. Babies are being born under circumstances that will be talked about their whole lives. At the same time, people are connecting with friends and loved ones, families are playing outside in their yards together, family game night is a memory many will take away from this time period.
For entrepreneurs and small business owners, this can be a make or break time. Many small businesses live paycheck to paycheck, and if the business has to be closed, it is impossible to keep up with the bills. Recovery could be really tough for most small businesses and I encourage everyone to support the local small businesses in any way you can.
Here’s what happened this week in Florida
Florida coronavirus information hotline: 1-866-779-6121 or email COVIDfirstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
Florida was declared a State of Emergency for COVID-19 on March 9th, and this week DeSantis expanded the order prohibiting all visitation to nursing homes and all living facilities with elderly people for 30 days.
Drivers’ license renewals are extended for 30 days.
Stay at home
On Thursday, California announced mandatory “stay at home” orders and several states have followed. It seems Floridians were out in numbers on Friday as they are preparing to stay put next. As of today, Orange County and Osceola County have enacted curfew along with some cities across the state.
Floridians have an advantage over much of the nation as we are experts at preparing to stay put. And there are many funny memes and social media posts joking about Floridians and our hurricane preparedness. And while we may be good at preparing for disasters, it may be one of our faults that could come back to bite us because many natives think "it's not going to hit us" and downplay the urgency of taking action. In the case of coronavirus, this could be bad here in Florida. We need to all come together as a community and follow the rules so we can get over this and get back to our lives. While I am having a hard time staying put, I'd prefer to do it for 2 weeks and then be able to get back to my life, then to ignore it and cause us to have to stay put and go through this for 3-6 months!
Restaurants and Bars
Tuesday was St. Patrick's Day and Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that all bars and nightclubs in Florida must close effective as of 5pm and stay closed for 30 days. Many St. Paddy’s day celebrations had to be cancelled. All restaurants in Florida are now take-out only.
Florida’s state university system Board of Governors instructed state universities to move to online-learning for the rest of the semester. In addition, all May graduation commencement ceremonies have been cancelled. Many colleges are preparing for summer virtual learning as well.
Public schools are closed until at least mid-April and should prepare to extend the school year to the end of June. All assessments have been cancelled for the school year and schools will not receive grades this year. The school dates will be re-evaluated every 2 weeks, according to the Florida Department of Education, and instructional hours may be reduced to accommodate for closures. The commissioner of Education stated that they are working with local school districts to provide guidance and help children who need access to food assistance. All schools are implementing distance learning programs. “It is essential that students do not fall behind and are still receiving instruction, even when they are not in the classroom,” said Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran.
In many counties, teachers are preparing to spend time learning the online virtual learning system that will be implemented and starting to prepare virtual learning assignments. Parents can pick up their child’s classroom computer to work at home if they do not have a computer. High schoolers are completing much of their work online. Some counties are sending home packets of work in leu of online learning.
Activities and Recreation
All gyms, fitness centers, theaters, and other entertainment facilities were ordered to be closed by the governor in Broward and Palm Beach Counties
The overcrowding photos that went viral of a St. Pete Beaches brought another order by the governor that all beaches are to be closed.
State Parks have announced closers for all rentals and activities within the parks. Florida’s State Parks as of today remain open for day use, hiking and recreation, but will be limiting use to 10 or less people in certain areas. The Florida State Parks website advises to practice social distancing when visiting the state parks. Let’s all do our part to keep the parks open and not abuse this trust.
Most county, city and community playgrounds are staying open to give kids a place to be active. It is advised to stay away from the playgrounds and find other activities for your kids to get their energy out. But if you go to a local playground, please remember to take hand sanitizer and remind your children to keep their fingers out of their eyes, nose and mouths and avoid direct contact with others.
Boaters are taking the opportunity to distance themselves from others while still getting out and enjoying outdoor activities. However, taking the boat to gather in large groups or partying on yachts is not helping the situation. The sandbars in Miami are a poor example of how we should be behaving with this pandemic.
Please remember to keep your distance from others on the sandbars and islands of Florida and do not congregate in groups of more than 10 people. Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez has announced that all boat ramps and marinas in the county parks would close until further notice to avoid these parties on the water.
We all want to congregate, but if we can abide by the 5 rules and can get this pandemic in control, then we can congregate sooner, rather than later.
The Florida Keys are shutting their doors to all tourists until further notice. That includes those just traveling down to the keys for the day. Those who are already there can stay through their reservation date but no new reservations are being taken.
Many towns and cities in Florida are starting to feel the sting of desolation. Orlando, Daytona Beach and other spring break hotspots are hit hard as large and small businesses alike are feeling the pain.
Roads around Universal and Disney are practically empty with only locals on the roads
Disney World has never looked so isolated
I-4 at 4:30pm on Friday had virtually no traffic
I-95 has similar reports of sparse vehicles and cities like Miami, Tampa and Jacksonville are experiencing similar dystopian type feelings of desolation.
Stay strong and share your stories and what’s happening in your local community with us.
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Remember to check the Florida Health Department website daily to stay up to date on the coronavirus.