… and finally. Hundreds of cars of all types and colors were lined up two hours in the pouring rain before the food distribution was scheduled to start. At Suwannee and Bay — the approximate entrance to the “Getting Through It Together” event — cars were coming from three directions, as though through a funnel. Some drivers wearing masks, some not.
A sheriff was assigned to direct traffic. Then another. Blue lights. Red. Traffic. Snaking traffic in a rural “city” suburb in the boondocks of central Florida.
This traffic report was brought to you courtesy of the coronavirus. And now for a word from …
Mother Earth. When she sent us humans to the corner to think about things, she sent us: a months-long drought that’s only recently let up; unusually hot temperatures; an economic recession with unemployment spiking to historic levels; and the no-longer-novel coronavirus, which has upended just about everything. Now she’s sent us the possibility that we won’t return to normal until 2022.
Pandemonium is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of the coronavirus: a useless federal response; state leaders flip-flopping on public guidelines; local leaders, on whether the beaches and schools should open or close; and every governor’s opinion on what’s an “essential” business. (We’ve got a couple of definites in Florida: churches and the WWE.)
We’re witnessing mass graves in New York and nursing home spikes everywhere. Protests against quarantines have started in Minnesota, Michigan, and Virginia and have spread.
We know that “contact tracing” will help us end this scourge and we’re being repeatedly told, “testing, testing, TESTING,” is how it will all end, but I see neither tracing nor testing happening at any significant rate. Quite the opposite.
Florida is among the top-ten worst in the nation. As of this writing it has not yet hit its peak.
At the onset of this epic crisis, Governor Rick DeSantis plowed us under the weight of an unemployment system that was already in shambles before the crisis. Now, even with its many servers, it’s still overloaded from the newly in-need. Social distancing and mask rules are different for every county in the state, and each county is on its own with little to no coordination between neighboring counties or cities as to the most correct public message of the day.
Many are frightened and long for a return to normal, not accepting that it really is normal to feel isolated, anxious, worried, confused, frustrated, doleful, vulnerable and overwhelmed at a time like this, especially with the mixed messages that we receive each day.
But what is the normal we want? One that isn’t working? One that includes poverty, sickness and despair? School shootings? Mixed messages from our leaders? One where facts are twisted to the point of being unrecognizable or one that requires nerve to anticipate what the future will bring when the dust settles, that is, when there’re enough tests to determine who has this disease?
By now I believe the coronavirus has touched every one of us. When we get home after grocery shopping or running other essential errands, we think about those who masked and those who didn’t.
We now see food drives for the have-nots and the food-insecure. Polk County is advertising to provide foreclosure assistance services, not a good sign so early on into a pandemic.
Will the wealthy and corporations come to the table; help the rest of us out? If not, the haves and have-nots, vying desperately over an ever-shrinking pie, will most certainly become even more divided.
From the inauguration of Trump to the current pandemic, it’s clear that some Americans don’t learn from history and are thus doomed to repeat the flu pandemic of 1918 while making this crisis dolefully worse for the rest of us. That said, I believe we will see over 75,000 dead in the US before this is over. The good news is that we will return to normal eventually: moving parking lots on the highways, sirens ad nauseam, back in our homes instead of on pandemic walks.
The icon of the Spanish flu, the “flu mask,” … did almost no good in 1918. Today, the N-95 masks coupled with social distancing appear to have made a dent in the COVID-19 system and are encouraged for the long run. If history is any indication, for the next year to come, we will be a sinister, masked society with a healthy appreciation for the essentials of life: health and hygiene, food, friendships, our homes, science, and sex.
And now for the weather report …