By Alvaro Blanco
Miami Beach, Florida, Jan 3 (efe-epa).- Coronavirus? What coronavirus? That is what the thousands of tourists and local residents in Miami Beach seem to be thinking as they enjoy the barrier island city’s wide white-sand beaches, party at local nightspots and soak up the atmosphere of sunny streets where many forget that Florida is now seeing its worst days since the highly contagious and often deadly virus hit the Sunshine State.
With or without Covid-19, half-naked, bathing-suit-clad people mill frolic in the sand and surf or stroll down the famous Ocean Drive, and happy, animated conversations come to the ear from all directions, along with a wide selection of music and even the distinctive scent of marijuana that no facemask can block out.
Some of the people contributing to the hustle and bustle are the friends of Silvio Maraca, who traveled from Brazil to have a good time and party in Miami Beach without worrying about picking up the coronavirus.
He told EFE – not wearing a facemask, of course – that he already had been infected with the virus at home but had tested negative before he got on the plane that brought him to Miami.
About not wearing a facemask, he said that the police only “threaten” to fine people not doing so, but they don’t do anything more except if someone goes right up to lots of people without donning a mask. He abides by the philosophy, seemingly followed by many in Miami Beach that “Enjoying the moment outweighs the potential punishment.”
Many tourists and locals are breaking the rules and many are posting on the social networks evidence of their partying while flouting the suggestions of health authorities, who fear that those who don’t social distance, wear facemasks or wash their hands frequently may become infected themselves and carry the virus to relatives or other people with whom they later come in contact.
By way of example, there’s the hip-hop singer Tyga, who livened up a party at a Miami Beach nightspot on New Year’s Eve and later posted on Instagram a video of the jammed club where people simply ignored the six-foot social distancing guideline.
Tyga is still partying and on Saturday there was another party at Miami Beach’s Story club.
Meanwhile, amid all the revelry, last week Florida broke its record, tallying 17,192 confirmed coronavirus cases in a single day, substantially above the 15,300 cases registered during the peak of the first Covid-19 wave last summer.
But that doesn’t seem to scare, or even affect, the pedestrians on Lincoln Road, Española Way and Ocean Drive, even though the even more contagious British mutation of the coronavirus has now been detected in Florida – the first known case being a young man who had not traveled anywhere else and thus an apparent case of “community spread.”
And all this despite the fact that a curfew is in effect in the city from midnight until 6 am and people ostensibly must wear facemasks in public places and maintain social distancing or possibly face being fined.
But Venezuelans living in the Chilean capital of Santiago Albert Chacon and Juan Manuel Torres, who are on a visit to Miami Beach, said that they have seen very few police officers on the streets and that “half the people” aren’t wearing masks.
“If you compare it with the safety measures in Chile, Miami Beach is way behind,” said Chacon, while Torres added that, although the “fear” of getting infected is always there, one must simply learn to live with the virus because not enjoying the good times would mean that one had “stopped living.”
And Miami Beach is not an isolated case, with the situation being repeated in other Florida tourist cities, including Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and Orlando, where this past week several theme parks had to close just a few minutes after opening up to the public because they had admitted the maximum allowed number of guests.
As tourists and locals crowd onto the beaches, the sunny streets, the restaurants and nightclubs in Florida, the state is in the No. 3 spot – behind California and Texas – in terms of its coronavirus caseload.
But, nevertheless, many are simply saying: “Party on…”