Not Florida Man, Florida Disaster
Florida: 27th state to join the Union; the state that has a Northern Mockingbird as its mascot, while it itself is in the southeastern part of the country; the state obsessed with oranges, with the orange blossom as the state flower and an orange as the state food; the state where OJ (orange juice) is the state beverage, but OJ Simpson doesn’t even reside there.
Florida is associated with many different things. There is the ever-iconic Florida Man, or there is the well-known booming population of golf-obsessed senior citizens. But the state also enjoys a sterling reputation as a spring break destination. Depending on the school, the dates range from late February to early April. Spring break is frequently associated with gatherings and partying in warm climate locations such as Florida. Many college students find it the highlight of their college experience. Am I surprised? No.
You have to respect the tradition of college kids in Florida during spring break with their alcohol. I will let you in on a secret: the behavior of college students is unpredictable. There are several different hotspots, like Miami, Orlando, Daytona Beach, Panama City Beach, and many other destinations in Florida. These hotspots are where the people are, but because of their reckless behavior, they bring a spike of COVID-19 with them. From 2010 to 2016, an estimated 300,000 students traveled to Panama City Beach for spring break. That’s more than three times the population of the Town of Greenburgh at a single beach, over six years.
During the pandemic, Florida has seen many spikes in cases, especially during the summer and winter. It is probably due to the holidays and vacations that people take in the area, spreading and transmitting the virus. There is no mask mandate in Florida, but the state government recommends masks as a form of protection against COVID-19, the current pandemic. Local governments like Miami-Dade County and Tampa have mask requirements, but they are forbidden from giving fines or penalties. The rules in place make it harder for the police to convince a drunk or high college student to put on a mask when there is no immediate consequence, besides getting the ‘rona.
Because they are not allowed to regulate masks, the police have been stricter against other rules. Case in point, the Miami Beach Police arrested 30 people on March 27th. The previous night’s unforgiving crowds resulted in two Miami Beach police officers going to the hospital with injuries. There were around 100 arrests in Miami Beach on the first weekend of spring break, including weapons and drugs. All I have learned is that college parties are brutal, literally and metaphorically.
The behavior has given reasons for the local government to take action. Miami-Dade County initiated a curfew from midnight to 6 a.m. every day, affecting 2.7 million residents plus visitors. The city of Miami Beach on March 27th declared an official State of Emergency. The city said it would be shutting down the three main causeways leading into Miami Beach. Spring breakers who failed to vacate the area came face to face with police firing tear gas. Residents who were unaware of the announcement became stuck in standstill traffic for up to four hours. It was a mess.
As a result, 100+ people gathered outside of Miami Beach’s City Hall for what they called the “Take Back the City Protest.” Residents have concerns over the lawlessness and chaos of the spring break crowds. Many feel as if they are only safe in their own home, rendering veritable prisoners after a year of seclusion due to Covid. .
I was so proud of Florida. When the number of cases of COVID-19 started to drop, I was proud. Finally, Florida was getting its life back together.
But now, I am not amazed at the behavior of Florida. Before spring break started, the cases had hit rock bottom, and now there is only one way to go: up. Florida and college kids: do better.