By: Anne Geggis
The sticky genetic material that’s no wider than one-thousandth of an eyelash’s breadth is doing more than killing people and emptying the places they gather. The coronavirus is also deepening the political divide as debate flares about how far the government needs to go to stop its spread.
Orders that followed the outbreak of the disease with no known cure have closed nonessential businesses, crippled the area’s tourism-driven economy, thrown multitudes out of work, confined many to their homes and forced most of Northwest Broward residents to don a face mask if they go out for groceries or visit essential businesses.
Avoiding the infected is the only known defense against COVID-19. But many people, right up to President Trump, have said that this “cure” should not be allowed to become worse than the disease that’s killed more than 45,000 Americans and counting.
The hue and cry to reopen the economy have sparked protests in many cities around the country. Social media posts are bristling with people chafing over face mask requirements and closed public amenities, like the beaches and boating ramps.
“Quarantine yourself if you don’t want to get sick,” Jason Buzio, 49, a pilot, who lives in Tamarac, wrote to NextDoor posters who were complaining about customers at a local pharmacy who weren’t wearing face masks.
Others see the measures taken to stem the virus’ spread as more of a threat to American life than the disease itself. Jessica Melton, running for U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch’s seat representing Coral Springs, Parkland, and other cities, sees an effort to oust President Trump in the media-fueled hysteria about the virus.
“The government should not be telling us that we can’t run our businesses, that we have to wear a face mask in public,” said Melton, 32, who owns a wireless infrastructure company, and has raised more than $62,000 in her congressional bid, according to the Federal Election Commission website.
“It’s a significant overreach. They don’t have the authority to do that constitutionally… This is the land of the free.”
She’s tweeted that local officials who are pledging to keep the economy closed will never be elected again.
“This is what [U.S. House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi and the Dems want,” she wrote in an April 17 tweet. “To destroy livelihood so they can usher in socialism to ‘save’ us. Sick.”
People are starving.
Municipal officials are pledging to keep cities in South Florida closed.
They’ll never be elected again.
— Jessi Melton (@votejessi2020) April 21, 2020
Her opponent in the August Republican primary, James Pruden, said he disagrees that shutting down the economy is a conspiracy against the president since the president and his task force made the recommendation.
“This is a real pandemic and not hype made up by the media,” said Pruden, an attorney, who sees a constitutional basis for the steps that have been taken.
Joel Greenberg, Seminole Tax Collector, believes it may be time to stand up to our civil liberties being violated. “We need to open the damn economy. Burning down the house in order to save it is not working and total B.S. Enough already.”
Camilla Huang, who has run Camilla Day Spa for 17 years, now at the Coral Square mall, said she believes the shutdown should have come sooner — and its continuation is utterly essential to saving lives. After watching how control and containment worked when she visited her mother in Vietnam earlier this year, she’s doesn’t want to open her business one minute before it’s safe, she said.
“I was taken aback that not more could have been done to prevent this from spreading” in the United States, she said.
Vietnam is right next door to China. That country’s coronavirus toll stands at 268 confirmed cases and no deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Huang witnessed firsthand that people were quickly tested and quarantined. It has spread only minimally despite its open border with China.
“I saw speakers going up at my mom’s condo,” she said, recounting the government’s quick, decisive action.
Sandy Gerhoff, 55, of Coral Springs, is worried that the shutdown could be going too far. She’s seen some stories saying that the economy might have to stay mostly closed until a vaccine is found. And that could be two years from now.
“People are losing everything they’ve worked their entire lives for,” she said. “It’s a real virus. I have a healthy respect for the virus. It’s shut down countries for weeks and weeks and weeks. But we have to find a way to live with this.”
“We have to get back to work,” she said.
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- Anne Geggis has been a newspaper reporter for 30 years, most recently at the Sun-Sentinel. She graduated from St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vt., with a double major in journalism and sociology.
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