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Empty Mizner during Lockdown

Living in the time of COVID-19

by John Gore

Want to enjoy a Back to the Future moment?  If you drive on any of Boca’s major thoroughfares—Federal Highway, Military Trail, Glades Road, even I-95, you will experience what life in Boca was like 40 years ago.  Traffic?  What traffic?  

Too bad there’s no place to go.  The shelter-in-place restrictions imposed by Boca Raton and Palm Beach County are severe, but so is the risk of Coronavirus transmission.  It will be interesting to see if Governor DeSantis’ decision to issue stay-at-home orders for only some counties, while leaving others free to choose less restrictive COVID measures, is the right one.  We get to be part of a test case on how best to put the economy on life support without exacerbating the spread of the disease. 

Living in Isolation

What exactly are you allowed to do if you live in a stay-at-home area like Boca?  The Boca Raton order (which mirrors orders by Palm Beach County and the Governor) provides that you should stay home unless you leave for the following essential activities:

  • traveling to and from essential commercial activities which include among others, healthcare, grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, gas stations, and more;
  • working at one of the specified essential commercial activities; 
  • engaging in outdoor recreation; OR
  • providing care or support to a friend, family member, or pets.

This is not as Draconian as it might be.  The grocery and drug store chains, particularly Publix, are doing an excellent job of managing crowds and supplies.  Empty shelves are still a problem, but you can find out when the next egg delivery is and plan accordingly.  And you can buy paper products because the stores are limiting sales to one per customer.  In future, maybe we should mandate that toilet paper rapidly decompose, so that people who selfishly hoard the stuff end up with a closet full of sludge.

… we should mandate that toilet paper rapidly decompose, so that people who selfishly hoard the stuff end up with a closet full of sludge.

About that recreation exception

One of the great exceptions in the stay-at-home rules is the outdoor recreation provision.  Remember, the key here is social distancing.  Which is why some of the rules don’t make sense.  If you want to take a walk in isolation, there is no better place than an empty golf course.   Yet the courses are closed to all activity.  The various clubs in Boca had established pretty good social distancing and health guidelines prior to the shutdown, and you can easily comply and enjoy the game.  I wonder if outlawing all golf in Palm Beach County (you can still go up to Stewart or over to Collier counties to play) isn’t overreach.  

Ditto for closing all of the parks.  Surely the 6-foot separation rule could be enforced at some of our more spacious parks.  There is also a disparity in Boca with respect to sun decks and pools.  Some buildings have them open; some (including mine) have them closed.  It seems to be up to the building management, but perhaps the City Manager could provide some helpful guidelines.  Why can’t pools be operated on the same social distancing principles as grocery stores and banks?  There’s plenty of room, and water does not appear to be a Coronavirus conduit.  The bottom line:  people need to get out and enjoy the near-perfect weather. Our elected officials should make it easier rather than harder to do, provided we exercise common sense and social distancing when we exercise.

Then there’s restaurants

The restaurant carry-out-only rule seems to be working well, which is a good thing, as many residents of Boca don’t cook.  It’s working well for the patrons.  I’m not sure it’s sufficient to keep the restaurants afloat for a prolonged period.  April will tell the tale.  Also, I suspect that the restaurant business is tough enough here in the off season without a carry out only requirement, so let’s hope our many restaurants and bars get some relief soon.

As most of us sit at home and wonder when and how this will all end, it is encouraging to report that life in Boca at the time of COVID-19 is still pretty good.  One hopes our government officials are looking at ways to make it better.  We have a proactive, but not an alarmist, City government; a population that is mature and responsible; beautiful places to walk and enjoy the outdoors; excellent medical professionals and facilities (if you can get in); and magnificent weather which makes us thankful we are here.  Be safe and enjoy!

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