The pandemic has been a doozy but one constant in Florida has been the very vocal arguments between anti-mask shoppers and regular people trying to survive in grocery stores and society in general. Ironically, most polls show that the anti-mask people make up a very small but loud minority. The issue has been widely politicized much to dismay of healthcare experts nationwide.
Masks are one of the only defenses that society has against the Coronavirus.
Recent studies show that wearing a mask not only protects others from you, but also protects you from other people who are shedding the virus. It really helps explain why cases are so much lower in other countries who never shutdown but distributed masks widely, although many of them have also instituted other aggressive methods as well such as contact tracing and strict criminal penalties for violating pandemic laws.
Publix initially resisted employees who wanted to wear masks and then eventually came around to providing plexiglass and social distancing guidance as well as masks, but still refused to enforce masks in their stores for customers. There have been several cases of COVID-19 documented from employees at more than 20 Publix stores who were likely exposed to the virus by shoppers who didn’t care about the people bagging their groceries.
Once re-opening began in May, many Publix shoppers stopped wearing masks at all and it was business as usual as the virus started to spread faster and faster. On one visit on June 8th, I witnessed an entire produce aisle filled with dozens of people not social distancing or wearing masks. To be frank, I was horrified. I did not go back to Publix for weeks.
Once Hillsborough County and City of Tampa passed emergency mask ordinances in late June, I had to run to the store and decided to give Publix another shot nearly one month later. To my surprise, 100% of the shoppers were wearing masks and so were the employees. A huge difference. The mask orders have made a difference.
Unfortunately, these actions have come late and Florida’s COVID-19 growth is out of control. Florida added 100,000 cases in 10 days. The daily death toll and hospitalizations are climbing.
We are heading towards another shutdown that will have devastating economic impacts on the state. 6 Tampa Bay Publix locations had virus cases in July so far despite mask orders. Imagine if companies and politicians would have acted early to stop the spread instead of removing responsibility from each other.
Finally – now Publix is saying that they will mandate masks for all shoppers except children and those with medical conditions starting Tuesday, July 21st.
It’s late – but always better than nothing. They are not alone as other big names like Target, Wal-Mart, CVS, and other retail companies begin to mandate masks nationwide. America is in a crisis.
I hope these mandates will at least help the “essential” workers who have been forced into this mess without any leadership until now.