The date that the citizens of Miami, Florida, have circled in red on their calendars is April 12. Starting Monday, in fact, the last anti-COVID-19 restriction will also fall: goodbye to the curfew, currently in effect from midnight to 6 a.m. across the county. In a city famous for tourism and nightclubs, the news is expected as a boon. Yet in these latitudes, the presence of the virus has not disrupted daily life compared to life before the pandemic. The streets and beaches are full, people are relaxed and there is no shortage of entertainment.
A relaxed atmosphere
Enza Michienzi, an Italian journalist who has lived in Miami for the past twelve years, is the founder and director of Italy Report USA; an online newspaper for Italians in Florida. Michienzi told iFamNews, “We had closures last spring – including a beach ban – and then there were some restrictions in certain public places, but these were lifted in the following months.” The atmosphere, however, has always been relaxed. No drones were flown in to find families barbecuing, nor was there any pandemonium among the citizenry. “Miami County had introduced a mask mandate, but there has been a lot of flexibility, especially outdoors. I haven’t heard of anyone being ticketed or caught on camera by law enforcement because they didn’t cover their nose and mouth.”
“Freedom for all” then came in September, when Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis removed all restrictions on bars and restaurants. Those in favour of the restrictions predicted a catastrophe of contagions, but the data has shown no such thing. “Shutting people in their homes is not a solution, but a problem,” said Michienzi, “because, in addition to the health emergency, this also creates economic and social emergencies. The only strategy to combat the virus is to implement an effective vaccination plan. They are administering blanket vaccines here, and cases are dropping.” Florida had about 3% more COVID-19 cases per capita than the U.S. average, but about 8% fewer deaths. The state is also now in the midst of an economic resurgence. “It would not have happened if we had shut down,” Governor DeSantis explained to CNN.
A political virus
“COVID-19 in Italy, as in the United States, has become a cause for political confrontation,” Michienzi explains. “Put somewhat simplistically, Republican governors tend to try and reopen their states in order to revive the economy, while Democrat governors, at least until the presidential election, have kept citizens in fear with talk of contagions and lockdowns.” In reality, the Italian journalist adds, “in the State of New York, Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo continues to pursue this line and, instead of dedicating himself to a plan of mass vaccination, he thought it would be good in this period to liberalize cannabis for recreational use”.
Yes to vaccines, no to vaccination passports
A serious and widespread vaccination campaign is therefore the tool that DeSantis is using to eradicate this novel coronavirus. It may seem like a paradox, because DeSantis is the same guy who banned a mandatory vaccination passport. “It is completely unacceptable for the government or the private sector to impose a requirement to show proof of vaccine simply to participate in society.” A few weeks ago, DeSantis told AgenziaNova, “We should introduce these (vaccine passports) and then do what… give all this information away to some big company?” Michienzi believes “an information campaign was carried out, which was enough to make people understand that the vaccine is the only way to defeat COVID-19”.
Getting vaccinated in Florida is easy. The vaccine is free, you can choose which one you will be administered, and you can get it in pharmacies, private centers and government centers. In the latter, there is no need for making a reservation, while elsewhere a quick online form is all that is required. And as of April 5, young people can also receive it; those older than 18 do not need parental consent, but those 16+ can receive it in the presence of their parents. Michienzi says thatin the last few days, some supply problems have arisen because many people are choosing the Johnson & Johnson single-dose.
With regard to healthcare in the United States, Michienzi would like to dispel another belief that is widespread in Italy. “Swabs have always been free. Not only that, here in Miami there were teams of health care professionals going to homes to visit and swab people in poorer neighborhoods.”