Wednesday, March 18, 2020

coronavirus impact on blue cities Birmingham and Key West in red states Alabama and Florida

Dreamed night before last of Tuscaloosa, and after waking I opened yesterday’s Tuscaloosa News edition in my email account and found:

By Kim Chandler, Associated Press
Posted Mar 16, 2020 at 7:21 PM

MONTGOMERY — Bidding to stop the new coronavirus, public health officials in Alabama’s largest county ordered restaurants to switch to take-out service only and ordered child care centers closed and nursing home visits restricted.
Jefferson County Health Officer Mark Wilson announced the orders at a news conference Monday. Seventeen of the 29 confirmed virus cases in Alabama have been detected in Jefferson County, which includes the city of Birmingham.
Wilson said the orders are for: childcare centers, preschools and private school centers with 12 or more students to close from Thursday until April 6; restaurants beginning Tuesday should not have on-site dining for one week but delivery and take-out can continue; the closure of senior citizen center activities; and for nursing homes to restrict visitation except for compassionate situations such as end of life. The order also prohibits public gatherings with more than 25 people.
“I know this has a big impact on our community. It’s quite restrictive,” Wilson said.
“This number seventeen. We are certain that is a major under-representation of what is actually going on in our community. We believe there are many, many more cases that we have not detected,” Wilson said.
Wilson said the orders can be enforced through court action if needed.
I read elsewhere that the take-out only-order is for one week. 

A friend told me later yesterday that he heard all bars and state liquor stores in Birmingham had been closed. I said, if that’s true, then all hell’s gonna break loose after drinkers run out of booze and the DTs set in. People in the DTs get really crazy. Maybe booze should not be cut off in Birmingham.

I went online and found Jefferson County bars also are included in the take-out only order. Hmmm, people can buy drinks in Birmingham bars and leave and get in their cars and drive? I also found state liquor stores will remain open and breathed a great sigh of relief. Not for me, I don’t drink. But for everybody.

I called a Key West citizen activist friend last night, who said, earlier yesterday, Florida’s Republican governor issued an order, which I found reported on FOX News: 

TAMPA, Fla.Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced tighter guidelines for the state, including closing all bars and nightclubs for 30 days. The closure begins at 5 p.m. Tuesday. The decision comes after nearly 200 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

The decision comes on St. Patrick’s Day, when bars are usually packed in celebration. The governor said Tuesday morning, despite the "social distancing" recommendation by the CDC and White House, Florida officials noticed there are still large groups of people congregating at bars.
“We view that as something that could be problematic for the spread of the virus. If they’re not meeting in these big groups, the chance that they will pass it on is less,” DeSantis said.
He added that all restaurants must now be at 50-percent capacity and seating must be staggered. Employers are also required to screen all employees. 
My friend said Key West police officers asked why they were not enforcing the Governor’s order yesterday, said it was up to city code enforcement. 

My friend was angry about that. He’s in his seventies, has serious medical conditions. A whole lot of elderly people live in Key West. Also, Key West is a major tourist destination. The city has confirmed coronavirus cases. There are hordes of spring breakers in Key West. If they contract the virus, they will vector it all over America. My friend said the city commission should order city police to enforce the governor’s order. This 6-time Key West mayor candidate agreed, and added, State Attorney Dennis Ward convenes a grand jury and prosecutes local bars, nightclubs and restaurants that don't obey the governor's order.

I asked if the Key West mayor candidate who owns bars and adult clubs had closed them? My friend said the candidate said he will comply with the governor’s order. I said, if tourist-destination Key West bars and clubs close for long, the city will go broke, workers will leave, the acute affordable rental housing crisis will end. It will be interesting to see how that all plays out.

My friend said the governor should send in the National Guard to enforce his order I said that would be something to behold. I said I had told visitors to Key West and mainland friends that Key West really doesn’t view itself as being a part of America, but pretends to be, so it can get federal disaster relief after hurricanes.

I asked if the city had closed its homeless shelter? And what about the large county jail on the next island up U.S.1? My friend said he didn't know. If the coronavirus gets into the homeless shelter and the jail, it will be a lot harder to contain. 

I called another Key West activist friend and heard much the same story, and that the former city manager was seen that evening drinking it up in a popular bar. My friend said the city commission had requested input and a special commission meeting was scheduled. He emailed his input to city hall. The governor issued his order. The city mayor canceled the special commission meeting and issued an order that city restaurants are take out only.

My friend owns rental property. He said he told his tenants not to worry about paying rent if they are laid off. He said all city landlords should do that. I said I didn’t see that happening. He said the city commission should require it. I said I didn’t see that happening. He said the city commission should tell its police not to serve eviction notices. I said eviction is the sheriff’s job, so the sheriff will have to agree to it, and the courts.

I called another Key West friend this morning, who is deeply involved in all things Key West. He said city police started enforcing the governor's order last night. The mayor candidate who owns bars and clubs complied with the order. Most bars, but not all, complied with the order. Residents were stretched by the order, but were outraged that some bar owners had not complied. Residents were stretched by the mayor's order that restaurants be take out only. 

I have known Mayor Teri Johnston many years. When she was a city commissioner, I saw her make really tough calls. I saw her disagree with the mayor and other commissioners. I thought she easily was the city's best city commissioner while I lived there.

Teri did not seek reelection some years ago, which she easily could have won without a run-off, if she had competition, which most likely she would not. She ran for mayor in 2018, and won handily. She is a building contractor. She is lesbian. She is very smart. She is very tough. She listens to all sides, then makes up her mind. I think Key West is darn lucky she is their mayor, especially now.

I published many times on my blog when I lived in blue city Key West, that because of its great diversity of people, the city is a proxy for all of America. But there is a bit more. Key West’s official philosophy is “One Human Family”. Everyone is included, regardless of beliefs, financial standing, race, political or sexual orientation. I think Key West has a moral duty to America, as well as to its residents, to do all possible to contain the coronavirus.

Life is simpler in red state Alabama, where rents are 1/3 Key West rents.

No comments: