Advertisement
What Floridians can do to beat omicron | Editorial
Forget the politics and focus on the practical for a few weeks.
NPR White House Correspondent and White House Correspondent Association Vice President Tamara Keith tapes signs up restricting the number of reporters who can sit in the Briefing Room of the White House, Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022, as part of increased COVID-19 restrictions due to the Omicron surge. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
NPR White House Correspondent and White House Correspondent Association Vice President Tamara Keith tapes signs up restricting the number of reporters who can sit in the Briefing Room of the White House, Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022, as part of increased COVID-19 restrictions due to the Omicron surge. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) [ ANDREW HARNIK | AP ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published Jan. 5

Two news events this week tell a tale about where Florida is amid the pandemic and what each of us can do as individuals. One is Ken Welch, the incoming mayor of St. Petersburg, coming down with COVID for the second time. The other is Gov. Ron DeSantis combatively asserting at a news conference that public schools would stay open throughout the omicron surge — as if there was a groundswell to keep them closed.

The governor was setting up a straw man of the silliest sort. Everyone wants schools open, and re-open they did this week after the holiday break. But if a teacher comes down with the highly contagious omicron variant, she will likely be out of the classroom for a week. So if she’s vaccinated and boosted, she may avoid hospitalization or worse, but she also won’t be in front of her class teaching. Yes, the school will be open, but how much will the students in that class be learning?

The best available tool to ensure teachers can keep teaching and students keep learning is individual responsibility — for each student and teacher to be vaccinated and to wear a mask that works. That means an N95 or its equivalent, which are now widely available and affordable. (They’re roughly $2 each at Home Depot, for example.) Cloth masks are little match against omicron, but high-quality masks most certainly are. Vaccinated students wearing proper masks protect themselves and their teachers from omicron. And tamping down omicron keeps the teacher in front of the class. In the real world, that is the true definition of keeping the schools open.

Individual responsibility brings us to Mayor-elect Welch. He tested positive for COVID on Monday and is doing the right things. He disclosed his condition promptly and candidly, and he will follow the guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He will self-quarantine at home, not planning on coming to City Hall until Monday after he is cleared. Unfortunately, that means he will miss the pomp of a mayoral inauguration, particularly poignant since he will be St. Petersburg’s first Black mayor.

Welch was vaccinated and boosted, but he still contracted COVID, a reminder of omicron’s transmissibility. He also is keeping things in perspective. “While this is disappointing, I am incredibly thankful that my current symptoms are not serious, and I keep in my thoughts and prayers all the families who have lost so much more to this pandemic,” he said. He is not forgetting that more than 62,500 Floridians have died from COVID.

We are learning more about omicron by the day. It is so infectious that positivity rates are no longer a good measure. Hospitalizations and deaths — always lagging indicators — tell us more. The math is simple and harsh: Omicron appears far less deadly than delta, but hospitalizations are still rising because this variant is infecting so many more people.

The good news is that omicron appears to be cresting quickly and should fall rapidly as well — weeks at most. So to get through this rough patch, it’s best to avoid the politics and apply practical solutions that work for students, teachers and, frankly, everyone: Get your vaccinations and wear a high-quality mask. This too shall pass, but let’s help it go quickly.

Spend your days with Hayes

Spend your days with Hayes

Subscribe to our free Stephinitely newsletter

Columnist Stephanie Hayes will share thoughts, feelings and funny business with you every Monday.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman and CEO Paul Tash. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.

Advertisement

This site no longer supports your current browser. Please use a modern and up-to-date browser version for the best experience.

Chrome Firefox Safari Edge