Florida Isn’t Maryland: I’m Okay with That

I’m in Florida for personal reasons. Let me tell you that it’s not just warmer, it’s different.

Welcome to Florida!

After leaving the airport, I stopped at a 7-11 to pick up a soda. A woman wearing a blue cap that said VOTE in big white letters was in line to pay and trying to convince the man behind her (wearing a mask over his mouth but not his nose) to vote early. She succeeded in making her purchase but failed in her political mission. After she walked out, the target of her earnest efforts sorta laughed and mumbled to the cashier something about Trump and voting on election day. Welcome to Florida!

Swing States Get All the Love

Commercials are from a different universe down here. It’s political ad after political ad. There seem to be two or three major Trump ads. In the one that leaves me cold, a guy pops up like a used car saleman and tells me Biden comes with scary lefty friends like Sanders and Omar. A more effective ad shows a Latino small business owner calmly explaining why Biden’s tax hikes will hurt.

Leadership Matters

The contrast in the rates of people wearing masks to protect public health between Florida and Maryland (at least the parts of both I’ve seen) is striking. Don’t get me wrong; most people in Florida wear masks. But the rates are different enough to drive home the importance of government in communicating a clear and consistent health message.

The result is that I feel much safer going indoors to businesses in Montgomery County because both customers and employees wear masks properly at very high rates. It was crucial that all of the key leaders at the state and county level united to make the rule and to model this behavior. Unlike Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Trump acolyte, Gov. Larry Hogan has publicly worn masks and held socially distanced press conferences.

In Florida, people frequently sport what I think of as the “half-Trump” (mask over mouth but not nose). Still others favor the mask as a chin strap. I guess it’s a fashion statement if you can call risky behavior a fashion statement (and no, they aren’t just taking a breath while socially distanced). A few just don’t wear it all indoors even where required.

Florida once again showed me how it provides author Carl Hiaasen with such rich material at a small “COVID-19 Supply Store.” I was pondering buying a Biden/Harris mask I saw in the window. I walked in and then promptly walked out when I saw two of three employees wearing their masks as chin straps. Practically all the store sells is masks. No folks, this isn’t satire. This is Florida.

Recently, Gov. DeSantis announced that indoor restaurants and bars can now operate at full capacity. Municipalities can have lower limits but all must allow at least 50% capacity. The White House recently demonstrated how large indoor gatherings can prove to be superspreader events.

The more secure the public feels, the more likely people are to engage in behaviors that fuel these events. Now that the Governor of Florida has paved the way for mass alcohol fueled gatherings in tightly packed spaces, the people of Florida have nothing to fear but the absence of healthy fear.