As of press time, Indian River County had 10 positive cases of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) placing our area somewhere in the middle of Florida counties.
While we are not quite as blessed as the 21 Florida counties that still had zero cases as of Monday night, watching the nightly television news made it seem like Vero Beach is in a different world than Fort Lauderdale and Miami – the seats of two Florida counties where as of Monday there were more than 500 cases.
Of the confirmed cases in Indian River county, four were men and six were women – with the patients ranging in age from 25 to 84. Six of the 10 were reported to have acquired COVID-19 in the course of travels, where four cases were said to be not travel related.
At press time, only one of the 10 was reported to be hospitalized.
While several of those suffering from COVID-19 live on the barrier island, the state provided no information about the residences of those on the mainland, and it was not known whether either Sebastian or Fellsmere had any cases.
Gov. Ron DeSantis was under a great deal of pressure last week to issue blanket stay-home orders that would virtually shut down local economies. But as of Monday, DeSantis was not caving, saying those kinds of measures have serious consequences, not only to the economy but to Floridians’ mental health and family relationships.
“That’s a very blunt instrument,” he said of wholesale lockdowns. DeSantis said he would work with local officials to put policies in place in their own communities if they make sense, but that he was not prepared to “tear lives apart” by treating all of Florida like Broward County (Fort Lauderdale).
“You simply cannot lock down our society indefinitely with no end in sight,” he said, because people won’t comply, and it could backfire.
Floridians are willing to do whatever it takes to defeat coronavirus, DeSantis said. “What they are not willing to do is do things that aren’t really serving the public health much.”
Still, life has changed locally, despite the low-profile of cases.
Bars are closed and restaurants were operating on a takeout-only basis. Still, some of the restaurants were doing a brisk take-out business.
Going to the doctor virtually, or “telehealth” consultations, were becoming the norm and all elective medical procedures were on-hold indefinitely.
Retail stores seemed to be shortening their hours virtually every day, and anyone who could seemed to be teleworking from home, attending meetings by video chat and conference call.
Government buildings have mostly shut down to foot traffic, while boards and commissions can now meet remotely without a quorum and without the public physically present.
Vero Beach Mayor Tony Young said that in his travels about town the past week, businesses appeared to be faring pretty well because they have been nimble and creative.
“Right now I’m very impressed with the way businesses and community organizations have responded to requests for them to safeguard the public,” Young said.
“You have restaurants who have modified their whole business plans to takeout with a line for pickup of orders placed ahead and another line for window service. My wife ordered paint from a paint store and we picked it up. They had it ready even on a Sunday.”
Young said he was not surprised that Vero is not only surviving, but thriving amid this crisis.
“It’s Yankee ingenuity and it’s the foundation of America,” Young said. “In that sense, the United States has a distinct advantage. You’re making bourbon one day and the next day you’re making rubbing alcohol for disinfectant.”
Despite the current challenges, Young said he was confident the greater Vero Beach area, and our nation as a whole, will come through this crisis strong.
One of the concerns that some expressed late last week, however, was about a new influx of visitors from the New York and New Jersey area – an epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak – further spreading the corona virus in Indian River County.
Monday night, DeSantis issued an order requiring anyone from New York, New Jersey or Connecticut entering Florida through an airport to self-quarantine for 14 days from their time of entry.