OPINION: A Look at Florida During Spring Break

BY AMAYA HENRY | STAFF WRITER

As I pulled through the drive-thru of my local Taco Bell in my hometown of Wesley Chapel, FL, I was shocked by what I was seeing. One of the workers was not wearing a mask. Coming from New York, where wearing a mask is heavily mandated, I was definitely surprised to see a fast food worker not wearing one.


Florida recommends, but does not require a mask for the general public. While several cities and large counties have mask requirements, the local government can no longer fine or penalize people for not wearing one under an executive order from Governor Ron DeSantis on September 25, 2020. However, on Friday the Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry lifted the mask mandate.


In his statement regarding the lift he stated, “At this time, based on current data, I have decided to lift the mask mandate that requires masks be worn indoors, in public spaces, where you could not be six feet apart. While I am lifting the City mandate, businesses can still require individuals to wear a mask. This action demonstrates that we are another step closer to getting back to normal, but we are not there yet.”


This greatly differs from what is occurring in New York as indoor dining just opened back up to 25% capacity as of Feb 14. Florida has been operating at 100% capacity for indoor dining since September of last year, demonstrating how much quicker Florida is deciding to push reopening the state.


On Thursday March 25 I went to the beach with a close friend of mine. We went to Indian Rocks Beach which is located in Pinellas county who still requires a mask be worn in indoor public places.


Compared to the amount of spring breakers seen in Miami over the last few weeks, Indian Rocks population was fairly mild. This is because it is not as popular/ well known as Miami or Clearwater beach. On the beach most people were not wearing a mask because it is not required, and almost everyone was six feet apart.


Multiple strangers approached my friend and I, one man even sitting on a bench right next to me to have a conversation, which shocked me as I have not interacted with strangers in a while. Let alone maskless. This seemingly normal gesture put not only me, but him at risk as well.


More maskless people were seen when we went to a local restaurant. Even though a sign on the front of the establishment stated that wearing a mask was mandatory, there were many people who were not abiding by this rule. There was a group of people who took turns sharing masks so that they each could go inside the restaurant.


Nicole Evangelista who is a freshman at the University of South Florida stated, “Overall I felt pretty safe Covid wise because we stayed six feet apart and were wearing our masks, but it was very apparent that other people are no longer taking this pandemic seriously.”


To be Covid safe at the beach it seemed like you had to make it a priority for yourself by practicing social distancing and wearing your mask because to others Covid was a thing of the past. Knowing how to protect and separate myself when I felt uncomfortable is crucial in Florida.


Seeing how different communities operate during this ongoing pandemic has been eye opening and has allowed me to be more conscientious about my choices.

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