If record-high outbreaks of the coronavirus in Florida, Texas, and Arizona have taught us anything, it’s that we need to stay home.
And when we are at home, we need to keep things intimate. That means no large barbecues for the July Fourth holiday. No big block parties with hundreds of people. No stopping by random friends’ houses for a plate. None of things we usually do to celebrate Independence Day.
Not this year.
We need to keep our guard up. Daily case counts in this city are no longer dropping. Philadelphia has added at least 300 new coronavirus cases since Friday.
Masks are now mandatory in the City of Brotherly Love. Wear them when you’re at indoor public spaces and also when you’re outside and around people not from your household. Yes, they’re hot. Deal with it.
We have no other choice, especially when you consider rising infection rates in states that reopened ahead of us and are having to impose new restrictions. Florida is setting records in new coronavirus infections, and has responded by closing beaches for the holiday weekend and discouraging bar gatherings. Texas and Arizona have experienced considerable spikes as well.
A note to young people: This is hardest on you. You want to be free to live your life as you choose and to socialize. But a concerning number of children and teenagers have tested positive for COVID-19 in recent weeks. Remember, you can spread the coronavirus even if you are asymptomatic. Think about how would you feel if you contract it and infect your elderly grandparents. And it’s not as if you’re immune to complications.
In Florida, young people ages 15 to 34 make up nearly a third of all coronavirus cases. Gov. Rick DeSantis didn’t take this thing seriously early enough. Back when we were racing around stocking up on toilet paper and other supplies, crowds were still flocking onto their beaches for spring break. He didn’t shut things down until April 1.
Thanks in part to a strict, citywide stay-at-home-order imposed in March, Philadelphia didn’t become an infection hot spot like New York City. We now might go “green” as soon as Friday.
But that’s no reason for us to drop precautions and start behaving like it’s the summer of 2019 instead of 2020. We need to stay vigilant even when others around us aren’t — like those sweaty beachgoers at Rehoboth Beach last weekend. Many were not practicing social distancing. Umbrellas and beach blankets were spread out within a few feet of each other. It was if all the sunshine made them forget how easily the coronavirus is transmitted. Delaware officials have urged those who have been to the area to get tested. Meanwhile, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has dialed back plans to allow indoor dining at restaurants this week. Even so, you can bet that the Jersey beaches will be crowded.
I know this all sounds grim.
I don’t mean to be a killjoy.
I’m sharing all of this because I’m proud of how Philadelphia has fared during the pandemic. For a big urban area with large pockets of poverty, where so many things go wrong all the time, this is one thing that didn’t turn out as badly as it easily could have.
I don’t want us to see the type of spikes that Florida and other Sunbelt states are experiencing right now. Once we finally get into the green zone, we need it to stick.
So, this weekend, enjoy your Fourth of July holiday at home with a small circle, preferably mainly those in your household — and if not, at least do it outside. Wash your hands often and for at least 20 seconds each time with warm, soapy water. Wear a face mask. If you’re feeling patriotic, get one in red, white and blue. This thing that we’re going through won’t last forever. So stay the course and stay at home.