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Where is our state leadership?

June 26, 2020
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

To the editor:

Gov. DeSantis was roundly critiqued as feckless and reckless for opening Florida to infection from COVID-19. Now we can add murderously callous as he dismissively shrugs off the skyrocketing infection rate in Florida. Instead of leadership the governor took an early victory lap. Now he conceals information by firing the staff who input the data, and allows the inflating of uninfected statistics by counting the multiple test taker as a multiple test subject (I took three tests but I am still only 1 negative subject; not 3 negative subjects). Even with these falsifying ruses, Florida is in the double digits for percentage of infected. What does that mean? If science here, as everywhere else, describes reality; Florida's number of infections will predictably continue to increase dramatically unless drastic steps are taken immediately.

COVID-19, since last month, has been the No.1 killer of humans on the planet. More than malaria, malnutrition, more than war, drugs and homicides.

"Vulnerable people" include people over 50 years of age demographically; easily half of Florida's voting population. Most at risk for exposure are those who work in the service industry and health care professionals.

An underlying condition as banal as asthma, hypertension, obesity or diabetes can render a COVID-19 infection a life-threatening matter, even for a child or young adult. Young adults who carry the virus while asymptomatic spread it to others casually if they do not wear a mask. Unfortunately, being obstinate, bellicose or self important ("I never get sick!") will not prevent one from catching the illness.

Yet the Florida theme parks and bars will open for casual transmission. Masks are not required by law, and the Governor allowed H visa farm workers imported in April from hotspots in Mexico. Our rural areas are now showing a 30 percent surge in contagion. The 2020 number of H visa workers (those entering the country to take jobs without residency rights) doubled in the Trump administration. Unlike Obama, President Trump waived medical scrutiny of H "guest" workers in 2020, and ICE has agreed not to repatriate those COVID-19 infected.

"More people are getting tested" is the gambit the Governor has trotted out for his cavalier attitude about public health. Hoping to delude his mathematically challenged constituency he celebrates, "More younger people are testing positive." Of course young people can also die of COVID-19, or develop chronic health conditions as a result of the infection. But young selfish spreaders can also infect everyone they meet on the street, bar, grocery store, hairdressing salon. Do you who believe in media bias really think the New York news outlets have forgotten Gov. DeSantis taunting them? The national press is covering this surge as an apocalypse, but DeSantis seems blithely unconcerned that Florida become known as the epicenter of this plague.

Please consider the math: The "R" value in epidemiology describes the contagiousness of a disease. Once the percentage of infection reaches beyond 9% of the random sample tested, a contagious disease has reached an exponential transmission rate; instead of a 1:2 ratio of infection per week for each sick person, the contagion can rapidly leap by 10 to 100, 100 to 1000, etc.

Unless people start wearing masks we can expect few out of state tourists to plan their "season" for Florida in 2020 to be anything but a horror show. Even if you are a Floridian so lacking in empathy that you care not a wit for the nibble transmission of a 1:100 risk of death to your fellow Walmart shoppers, consider the economic consequences to the state, and your own personal bottom line. Most working Floridians require some trade with tourists in the fall. Will they come if in October Florida is stacking bodies like Brazil? Wear a mask.

The Florida legislature should sign onto Obama CARE (the ACA) allowing the federal government to subsidize health insurance costs for those infected who will have years of chronic illness ahead of them without stable employment. The Florida legislature should also immediately set up a state disability system to provide income subsidy to those who test positive and need to stay away from work with the public for two weeks. The Governor should shut down the hairdressers, nail painters. Bars that abuse the 6-foot spacing should risk the loss of their liquor license. Restaurants that hope to earn a living in November should close in July, if they would save the tourist season this year. Some leadership is required for the financial and personal health of Florida.

Ellen Starbird

Cape Coral



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