Summer in Florida, with its routine thunderstorms, sweaty nights and unforgiving mosquitoes, is not for the faint of heart. (At least 11 suspected cases of coronavirus in the Florida Keys last month turned out to be mosquito-borne dengue fever.) Sometimes it feels as though the season’s only rewards are royal poinciana blooms, ripened mangoes and fewer tourists.
This summer has been made harder by the virus, which brought a sense of despair and helplessness that seemed especially acute in the days leading up to Tropical Storm Isaias. The storm goes away. The virus has not.
“It’s really stretching our limits,” said Kevin Cho, 31, a Florida National Guard captain and a nurse practitioner who treats Covid-19 patients in the intensive care units of several Miami public hospitals. Among them have been a doctor, who died, and a fellow nurse, who lived.
Many poor people contracting the disease “are losing their jobs, and now they’re faced with a hurricane,” he added. “How could they prepare for a hurricane when they have been exhausted of every resource they have? This hurricane is only going to make things worse.”
In Miami-Dade County, where the coronavirus has hit worse than anywhere else in Florida, the emergency operations center has been outfitted with plexiglass desk dividers and fans equipped with ultraviolet lights to try to kill the virus. Many employees who would normally be in the building worked from home, at least as long as their internet did not go out.
“It’s not as good as being here,” said Frank K. Rollason, the county’s emergency management director. “But right now, it’s better than being here.”
Some South Floridians hurried to supermarkets, gas stations and hardware stores to stock up on canned food, water bottles and plywood. But others, unfazed by the relatively weak and disorganized storm, did not bother. My building in a Miami suburb, which was not in the storm’s direct path, did not even bring in the patio furniture, and my potted plants remained on the balcony. One neighbor on my street put up window shutters.