Right up until I got the notice on Friday evening that schools would be closed in all of Florida for the next two weeks, the Coronavirus, aka COVID-19, seemed like something that was serious, but that would not affect my life too much.
All last week, COVID-19 seemed to be creeping closer and closer to us here in North Florida. First, Disneyland in California announced it would be closing. Then Disney World in Orlando, followed closely by Universal Studios, announced they, too, would be closed for a while. A conference in Orlando that I had planned to attend also got canceled. At this point that was still a big city problem, or a cruise ship problem, or a problem for people in other countries. Then I got the text that changed everything: “Schools in Florida will be closed for at least the next two weeks.”
Up until Friday, we had not seen the hoarding of certain items, especially toilet paper, that has plagued other areas. I hope you have a few rolls somewhere in your house because finding toilet paper now might be a bit tricky. I can almost understand people wanting to have some extra toilet paper in the house just in case they have to self-quarantine and can’t go to the store for a while. I am perplexed by the hoarding of water. I don’t see how this could lead to a grid-down situation that would shut down the water pumps at people’s houses. I think people in situations like this want to feel like they have some control over the chaotic situation. If having a couple cases of water sitting in your house makes you feel better, who am I to judge?
Some people feel that this is being blown out of proportion, and all of this hysteria is being caused by the media. Those people are dead wrong. There are confirmed cases of community transmission in Florida. That means some people in our state who have tested positive never left the area or went on a cruise. Almost anyone could have it at this point, and we have only recently started testing a significant number of Floridians. A co-worker of mine had a good way of explaining the need for school closures. Yes, Sally, a young, healthy student would probably survive if she contracted COVID-19, but if Sally passed the virus to her grandmother, her grandmother might not be able to live through the ordeal. Remember, Florida has the highest percentage of people older than 65 in the country. Closing schools for two weeks will save quite a few grandmothers, possibly yours.
The money we have all lost in the stock market after Thursday’s huge drop can be replaced. If I don’t get all of the money back from the travel I had planned for our spring break in April that was moved due to circumstances out of my control, life will go on. I don’t think we need to wall ourselves off and not interact at all. That didn’t work so well for Prince Prospero in Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death,” and it probably wouldn’t work too well now. I will consider myself lucky if no one I personally know ends up dying from this virus from China that is now on our doorstep.
Eric lives in Suwannee County and is a public school educator. He is an independent contractor. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.