The number of recorded cases of coronavirus reached record levels in Florida, where many tourists take advantage yet again of the beaches and hotels, with only a distant memory of the confinement, and for many, without wearing a mask, or abide by the rules of social distancing.
This State of the south-eastern United States reopens gradually its economy, whose survival depends on desperately of tourism. In full election year, Florida is a key State to win the presidential election in November.
The challenge: find a balance between public health measures and the need to save jobs.
2500 new cases
On Monday and Tuesday, the “Sunshine State” has recorded over 2 500 new cases of coronavirus each day. In total, more than 82 700 persons have been tested positive in the State, according to health authorities, and more than 3,000 people are dead.
The proportion of positive tests has reached more than 10%, compared with 5.5% the previous week.
But many have had enough of hearing about the pandemic, and tensions arise between the masked men and those who oppose it.
“This is not easy,” says Kathie Joseph, owner of the French bakery Blue Paris in Miami Beach. “We need to be behind them, ask them to wear masks. Some don’t take it well at all.”
In the street, a man discusses with his driver Uber because he refuses to ride in the vehicle with a mask. On the beach, a group of young revelers take to the party one of the “ambassadors of the social distancing”, used by the city.
According to the owner of the bakery, only half of its clients comply with the rules. A proportion that also finds Diane, 60 years of age, who has traveled by car from Texas to enjoy the fine sand.
“It seems that people just want to go on with their lives and are willing to assume the risk,” she said, before taking a sea bath, surgical face mask on the face.
Conscious of these tensions, the mayor of Miami Beach, Dan Gelber, says that it “is not to eliminate risk but to control it”.
“Even if we can’t force 100% of people to comply with the rules, if the majority of the fact, we will reduce considerably the transmission of the virus and save lives,” he told AFP.
The economic crisis is a hard blow for Miami Beach, with its 93 000 inhabitants. Seven million tourists visited each year prior to the crisis. Three and a half million of dollars are being lost every week, according to the mayor’s office.
Citing the stability in the number of hospitalizations and deaths, the authorities attribute the increase in the number of cases to the increased testing for the virus, which are now provided free of charge and very widely throughout Florida.
But for many, the increasing number of tests do not alone explain as much of positive results. Are highlighted: the re-opening, which started in may, and the manifestations of racism of the past three weeks.
For Dan Gelber, the hospitals have the capacity to handle an increase in the number of cases, even if it relies on the tracing of people who have been in contact with patients in order to avoid an extreme situation.
Further north, in Tampa, in spite of the reopening allowed for the majority of establishments (at reduced capacity), several bars and restaurants have had to close in recent days because some of their employees are found to be contaminated.
“We’re going to move forward”
“We’re not going to close; we are going to move forward”, said Tuesday the governor-republican Ron DeSantis, an ally of Donald Trump.
“We will continue to recommend it to the elderly population to practice social distancing and avoid the crowds”, he continued.
Last week, the governor has offered the american president to celebrate his appointment expected as the candidate for his re-election, when the republican convention, in the city of Jacksonville, in the north-east of the State.
Ron DeSantis “has shot themselves in the foot,” said Aileen Marty, an expert in pandemic of Florida international University (FIU), to Politico.
“He thinks that minimizing the threat posed by the virus helps the economy”, she continued. “But it will have the opposite effect because if people do not understand how this virus is dangerous, they will act irresponsibly.”