This op-ed was published in the Tampa Bay Times on June 18, 2020.
Here is the original op-ed from the Tampa Bay Times:
“Politics or Health”
It is starting to look like basic safety precautions will not be mandated statewide for Florida schools, such as mask-wearing and social distancing. We regulate everything about schools and demand accountability. So it is simply untrue that it would be some kind of grave overreach for the state to make masks a statewide requirement. Giving flexibility to local leaders to make bad, medically uneducated decisions that affect the health of the entire state is, in itself, a bad decision.
I would like something other than a political explanation for why our highly educated leadership believes masks should remain optional. Are our leaders afraid making masks a statewide requirement will scare away tourists? Well, a raging COVID-19 infection will scare away a lot more tourists than masks. No one will want to vacation in the new infection capital of the country.
Showcasing proactive, low-impact smart actions like mandatory masks will give smart people from around the country and the world confidence to come to our state, not scare them away. If it angers some people over their political self-interests, ask what is more important, our health and our economy, or a political symbol?
This op-ed was written while we were living in Northern Florida during the pandemic. The madness that occurred in Florida due to far-right politics overriding commonsense and safety is implicit in this essay. The city of one million where we lived was hard hit. Early on in the pandemic, for a period of weeks, we become the national epicenter of the pandemic. We had freezer truck morgues and everything else imaginable and unimaginable, and yet, most of the people surrounding us continued to deny the reality of covid.
All throughout the pandemic, the majority of the people in our area refused to wear masks. Many taunted and threatened those who did wear masks. Many believed vaccines were part of a capitalistic conspiracy and ivermectin was the cure. Our own doctor, unsolicited, advised us to take ivermectin as a preventative measure. When we went to get a vaccine booster, we were the first people to do so because almost no one was getting vaccinated. To this day, only about 60% of the people are vaccinated.
We left Florida in June 2022 after living there for five years. Prior to Florida, we had lived in Los Angeles. Estimates are that approximately 30% of the people who moved during the pandemic did so partially or completely for political reasons. When we fled Florida, we felt like domestic political refugees and still do.
I currently live in Jacksonville, in the state of mind called Florida. You know, that Jacksonville, the one that will be hosting the RNC convention in some number of weeks. That Jacksonville, where for weeks since reopening, COVID numbers that were going down, are now shooting up exponentially as they are in the rest of the state. That Jacksonville, where people are not taking COVID as seriously as the rest of the state.
I have tried to keep this book blog somewhat apolitical, which is part of the reason I have been posting little here and tons of essays on my private, nonpublic Facebook page. I feel I will not be able to keep this up for much longer, and my private essays will start to bleed over into my public blog. So here goes nothing…
Jacksonville, called JAX for short, is the largest city in the entire southeast. It’s a swing city, 50:50 Democrats and Republicans. We all get along here fairly well, but some things have started to really bug me. One of those things is mask-wearing. How did something so common-sense and lifesaving, become a loony political trophy and wedge-issue-weapon? It is disappointing and disgraceful.
For many months I have been writing op-eds and essays that are being published in Florida newspapers. So I guess it is a little silly that I have been publishing my opinion elsewhere than my own blog. Here is my latest op-ed, which was published in the Tampa Bay Times on June 18th. Right now, it is in the print edition and should be in the online edition soon.