My recent trip to Florida was glorious for one simple reason: it was normal.
You see, I had been hungering for a friendly social gathering for months – any gathering involving family, friends, business colleagues or old classmates would do.I had been hungering for the simple ability to freely assemble with my fellow humans, as I did routinely before COVID-19 struck.
My family is still smarting over the loss of our Thanksgiving feast. For the first time in six decades, my parents’ house wasn’t packed full of 30 to 40 people. My holiday dinner last fall involved me showing up with Thanksgiving takeout for four. We did count our many blessings. We were all healthy and well. But it was surreal to be in such an empty house eating processed turkey and stuffing.
This spring, as the coronavirus vaccines are being rolled out, our family gatherings began to approach normalcy. My mother and father were able to host a modest Easter event attended mainly by family members who had got their COVID shots. All of us were thankful to finally be able to enjoy some semblance of social “normality” again.
But it wasn’t until I flew to Florida recently to visit a few high school pals that I was reminded of how enjoyable our pre-COVID lives were. My first trip anywhere since February of 2020, Florida gave me a taste of the basic freedoms many of us have been missing for two reasons:
First, before I flew to Pensacola, I had received both COVID vaccine shots.
Second, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had eased many COVID restrictions in his state long ago.
For instance, in Florida masks are not required by law. Schools have been open for in-person learning since last August. Restaurants and bars have been operating at 100 percent capacity since September. And the beaches were never closed.
Unlike my state, Pennsylvania, life in Florida was already semi-normal before the vaccines arrived. Given his anti-lockdown sentiments, it’s not surprising that DeSantis thinks the messaging on vaccines from our public health experts has been “horrific” – and backwards.
“The messaging should be, get a vaccine because it’s good for you to do it,” he says. “It works. You’re not going to have to be doing anything abnormal. You can live your life….” DeSantis says that the “get-back-to-normal” message is muddled when you tell people after they’ve got the vaccine that they still have to wear masks, social distance and avoid social gatherings larger than a bridge club.
Whether you agree or disagree with DeSantis, you have to admit that he’s correct when he says the official messaging on vaccines has been confusing – and still is. According to Business Insider, just two weeks ago Dr. Fauci said: “It’s important for all Americans – both vaccinated and unvaccinated – to continue avoiding crowds and socially distancing until we know for sure that vaccinated people don’t spread the virus.”
I’m glad I’m not governor of Florida. I’m certainly glad I don’t have his and Fauci’s responsibilities. I don’t know when – or, at this point, if – our lives will ever get back to some semblance of normalcy. All I know is that for a few days I was able to sit outside in the warm Florida sun enjoying live music – and enjoying the simple freedom to gather and converse in a way I hope we’ll all be free and safe to do again soon.
Tom Purcell is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. Send comments to Tom at Tom@TomPurcell.com.