I’ve tried my best to keep my pie-hole shut and refrain from criticizing those who are actually in the arena, working hard to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, then I read something so asinine – so outrageous – that it prompts a visceral reaction that I simply cannot suppress.
Case in point – earlier this week, the always arrogant Volusia County Councilwoman Deb Denys, who is actively running for County Chair during what is fast becoming the weirdest election cycle in memory – attempted to explain on Facebook why passengers arriving at Daytona “International” Airport are still not being screened for flu-like symptoms or formally advised of our Governor’s precautionary order.
Last Monday, Governor Ron DeSantis issued an executive order which requires screening, isolation and quarantine of persons arriving in Florida from any area with “substantial community spread,” specifically including the New York/Tri-State area.
On Friday, that order was expanded to include persons travelling from the State of Louisiana – and “checkpoints” have been established on all major interstate highways – essentially to let those from hard-hit areas know that they are required to self-quarantine for 14-days – or face the potential of 60-days in jail.
Implementation of the Governor’s directive is apparently the responsibility of the Florida Department of Health.
Good luck enforcing that, Governor DeSantis – but, as an awareness, identification and intervention measure, in my view, it’s damn good public policy.
According to Councilwoman Denys, in the eight days since the executive order was put in place, the FDOH has been “phasing in” screening procedures – beginning with “major airports” – while non-vetted passengers continue to flood into the state through smaller airports from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut as residents flee the outbreak in major metropolitan areas to vacation homes, condominiums and family in the Sunshine State.
Apparently, Daytona International Airport is still waiting for an engraved invitation from FDOH before taking even cursory actions to protect Volusia County residents from what is essentially a daily injection of potential coronavirus carriers.
I have been hypercritical of those elected officials who have called for the closure of Volusia County beaches and recreation areas based upon the fact that, with proper social distancing and spacing requirements, there appears little chance of contracting COVID-19 on the wide expanse of the beach.
In my view, people need the escape – the ability to get outdoors in a responsible manner – and enjoy the incredibly positive physical and psychological affects of fresh air and sunshine.
But this is different. And dangerous.
Look, you don’t have to be an epidemiologist to understand the danger of open transmission routes from high incidence areas to those, like Volusia County, who, so far, have been spared exponential infection rates.
And stopping direct flights from the Tri-State is clearly ineffective as most arrive here from hubs in Atlanta and Charlotte.
Now, Governor DeSantis’ order doesn’t prohibit travel – it places commonsense restrictions on those who insinuate themselves into our neighborhoods, shop among us for necessities, use condominium common areas and place further burden on the local availability of goods and services – by directing that they self-isolate, just like the rest of us, for the good of the community.
On Sunday, Dr. Hal Kushner, a national hero and senior member of the Volusia County Medical Society, explained:
“…their presence, without quarantine, is a significant public health problem and a risk to the rest of us in this area. This is a problem requiring various agencies: the hospitals, the Volusia County Health Department, and the various city police forces and the sheriff’s department to implement the governor’s standing order. If it is not implemented or enforced, it has no effect and exposes our population to increasing and unnecessary risk.”
In addition, Dr. Kushner, speaking on behalf of the Volusia Medical Society, offered the groups support to local governments, public health officials and law enforcement to help implement Governor DeSantis’ executive order.
In my view, Dr. Kushner – and the intrepid members of the Medical Society – should be commended for offering to help protect our community – and for sounding the klaxon on the clear and present danger of this open point of exposure.
Now, it is time for County Manager George Recktenwald and County Chair Ed Kelley to act in the spirit of the county’s emergency declaration and close this gaping hole in our local defenses and stop waiting for the Florida Department of Health to get off their ass and give them permission to protect Volusia County residents.
Time is of the essence.
Photo Credit: The Daytona Beach News-Journal