MIAMI, Florida – It's not often that one of the biggest news in the world is just outside your home. But that is the sad and tragic case for those of us who live in Florida, and especially in the city of Miami. We have more daily cases of coronavirus than anywhere else in the United States. And that's nothing to be proud of.
We did everything wrong.
The quarantine in Florida was not in place long enough. It lasted barely one month in most of the state, and six weeks in the more populated Broward and Miami-Dade counties. In comparison, the quarantine in the Chinese city of Wuhan lasted 76 days and the state of emergency in Spain held for three months. Other states and countries held much longer. Not us.
That's how Miami became the new Wuhan. On July 12, Florida recorded 15,299 new cases of coronavirus, the majority in Miami-Dade. That is far higher than the 12,200 cases recorded in one day in the state of New York, on April 4. Those are world records, and nothing to brag about.
“Miami is now the epicenter of the pandemic,” said Dr. Liliam Abbo, chief of infection control at the Jackson Healthcare System. “What we were seeing in Wuhan six months ago, five months ago, now we are there."
Comparing Miami to Wuhan would have been crazy early this year, when the first cases of the coronavirus were reported near a market in the city of 11 million people. But now we know that they took the correct measures to contain the virus, and we did not.
It is almost impossible to obtain hard and trustworthy data about the number of cases in Wuhan. But journalist Chris Baraniuk, with the highly regarded magazine The Scientist, quotes from a study that suggests that more than 75,000 people may have been been infected in Wuhan as of Jan. 25 – far more than the 495 cases officially reported. During those days, authorities imposed an iron quarantine on Wuhan and eventually controlled the outbreak.
Meanwhile, in the United States, President Donald Trump was in total denial. In an interview with CNBC on Jan. 22, he naively declared, “We have it totally under control … It's going to be just fine.” That was not true. Nearly two months had to pass before Trump declared a national emergency on March 13. Any way you look at it, today it is a total failure to have more than 140,000 dead and 3.5 million people infected in the richest country in the world.
Copying the bad example set by President Trump, the Republican governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, took the same permissive attitude, without a sense of urgency. There was never a state-wide order to use masks in public places, and he reopened businesses too quickly. Covid-19 cases, of course, started to multiply. But the governor refused to recognize his mistakes and make corrections. “We are not going back, closing things,” he said in late June
In the middle of the worst world crisis, Florida is sending the wrong message. While the Hong Kong Disneyland closed again after a new outbreak of the virus, the Disney World in Orlando is open at a time when thousands of new cases are being reported daily in Florida.
It is as though we believe that the virus will magically disappear, or that our fervent wishes to return to normalcy will end the infections, hospitalizations, intubations and deaths in the Sunshine State. But the next person infected or intubated could be any one of us.
Only a good system of testing and quick tracking, combined with the obligatory use of masks and social distancing, can keep us alive until we discover a safe and effective vaccine. But that is precisely what we don't have where I live.
We have trusted our lives to a small group of politicians who look like they don't know what they are doing, and who are more worried about doing well in the Nov. 3 elections. But nothing can hide their incompetence, especially when the errors are measured in infections and the lives of people you know and love.