Plastered across the news in recent weeks were images of crowded beaches and large gatherings in Florida. Crowds got so big that police were used to break up them up, residents were irate and party goers ended up getting pepperballed and arrested. How did spring break become a spring fiasco?
As the season approached Republican Governor Ron DeSantis made it very clear that there would be no enforced COVID-19 restrictions for people looking to let off steam. He went as far as to call Florida a “beacon of light for those that yearn for freedom” from the restrictions that have been put in place to protect people from COVID-19. Since the beginning of the pandemic DeSantis resisted implementing COVID-19 restrictions. He was late to require masks and shutdowns and has aligned himself with Trump in decrying lockdowns and safety measures as restriction on people’s individual rights and freedoms.
But it’s been more than an ideological battle for DeSantis. He has been laser focused on developing the Florida state economy with new infrastructure projects and increasing business and tourism in the state. Another example of political leaders protecting the economy and business profits rather than people in this crisis.
Democrats and the media are blaming DeSantis for the raucous spring break events, and he does deserve a lot of blame. His welcoming stance to travelers and his dismissal of the real risks that come with parties and tourism during the pandemic are clearly linked to the chaos that ensued. But there is so much more to the story.
The question of reopening has been a repeated problem because of the way our society is organized. When we leave decisions about how to organize things up to a wealthy few motivated by profit, we get the chaos we have seen since this pandemic started. Instead of a coordinated, collective effort to address the spread of COVID-19 at the start, we’ve seen episodes like this, with erratic and diffuse responses more generally. In state after state and business after business, there has been increased or eased restrictions and testing measures as they see fit, in each case they decide on courses of action based on economic interests rather than public health, causing waves of resurgence and a never-ending spread of the virus worldwide. And as the pandemic extends into its second year, it is no wonder people are sick of quarantine, looking for a way to unwind and have actual social connection. And even after nearly 3 million dead worldwide, this overall failed response has opened the door to the emergence of new strains of the virus that could leave the world plagued by this pandemic far into the future.
Sure, DeSantis is to blame for the spring break mayhem, but let’s not get it twisted – so is capitalism, the system that we live under that prioritizes profit over people in every circumstance.