Florida beaches are seeing big spring break crowds notwithstanding the danger of COVID variants in Florida. File shot from Clearwater Beach on March 18, 2020. Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
With new, more infectious COVID-19 variants continuing to spread across Florida and the nation, health care workers are warning of a surge in cases if people don’t adhere to safety protocols during Spring Break.
Large crowds at beaches, bars, and restaurants could trigger a spike in cases in the state if people grow lax about safety measures such as wearing a mask and social distancing.
“We still need the public’s help to protect our patients, our co-workers, and our families,” Marissa Lee, a registered nurse in Florida, said in a written statement Tuesday.
Lee is part of the National Nurses United, a large union representing registered nurses, which is urging people to comply with safety guidelines issued by federal health officials.
Reports from Florida beach towns (including this one from CNN) suggest widespread disregard for those guidelines. Miami Beach police made around 100 arrests over the weekend.
“We will not reduce infections, hospitalizations, and deaths unless everyone helps. That means get vaccinated, but it also means wear masks and take all the other safety measures we need to safeguard all of our communities,” Lee added.
The group also said people should get vaccines if available, while praising Congressional Democrats’ and President Joe Biden’s push for dollars for vaccine distribution.
Florida has the most variant cases in the nation, with all three strains including the United Kingdom, the Brazil, and the South Africa variants. Health officials say those mutations are worrisome because they spread more easily, which could lead to a surge in cases, potentially overwhelming the health care system and leading to more deaths.
Meanwhile, Gov. Ron DeSantis has been against a statewide face mask mandate and has not followed all guidelines developed by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In response to the onset of the pandemic last spring, the governor encouraged restaurant and bar owners to enforce rules such as social distancing and limiting the number of tables to cut down on Spring Break-related transmission, the Florida Phoenix reported at the time.
More recently, DeSantis has been dead set against any new business restrictions, telling reporters last week: “To even contemplate doing any type of lockdown — honestly, it’s insane.”
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