The number of new COVID-19 cases has slowed to a crawl in The Villages, but that doesn’t mean that area residents and officials can throw caution to the wind.
In fact, steps like wearing masks and practicing social distancing have never been more important because those precautionary measures are largely responsible for the rapid decrease in new Coronavirus cases across the tri-county area.
Not surprisingly, some Villagers have taken the virus quite seriously, while others have more or less ignored the dangers and continued to shun guidance against gathering in large groups. Instances of that kind of irresponsible behavior have been evident at places like golf courses and town squares.
On May 4, Gov. Ron DeSantis allowed restaurants across the Sunshine State to reopen at 25 percent capacity inside dining rooms and with tables on outside patios spaced at least six feet apart. Those eateries were mandated to take the temperatures of employees, require masks to be worn and to constantly wipe down and disinfect common surfaces. Floridians also were warned about the importance of wearing masks, visiting restaurants in groups or 10 or less and practicing social distancing at all times.
Once recent evening at Lake Sumter Landing, however, it was quite obvious that some Villagers either didn’t get the message or they simply didn’t care. That’s because large groups were at the bar area huddled together in close quarters, much the way residents did before the COVID-19 crisis swept across Florida and nation.
It is appalling that Villagers – those among the group most susceptible to the potentially deadly Coronavirus – would be so careless as to ignore social distancing guidelines while COVID-19 cases have slowed to a crawl. The pandemic is far from over and careless behavior like hanging out in large groups at a restaurant bar is a good way to spread the virus to friends and family members.
Of course, those Villagers aren’t the only ones flouting COVID-19 rules. In fact, we found it beyond disturbing this past Wednesday when Recreation Director John Rohan made a long presentation in front of the Amenity Authority Committee without wearing a mask. A sign at the entrance to the meeting made it quite clear that masks were required and everyone else in attendance – committee members, the district manager, the AAC’s attorney and the chief of The Villages Public Safety Department – wore masks in compliance with the District-wide policy enacted in response to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Rohan, however, defied that important policy during his hour-long presentation in defense of the Recreation News.
Let’s remember that Rohan is a top Villages official who is charged with setting the standards for his employees and others. So his poor decision to show up without a mask amid the COVID-19 crisis was at the very least irresponsible and at most an arrogant and careless way to conduct himself.
Luckily, as we said earlier, many Villagers have taken the COVID-19 pandemic quite seriously and are doing their best to slow the spread of the illness. Golf cart parades with appropriate social distancing have taken place. Villagers have walked through their neighborhoods while staying at least six feet away from friends and neighbors. And groups that normally came together for fun and fellowship have shelved those plans during the pandemic. They know we are all in this together.
In fact, we’d like to commend Villagers who have spent this past week enjoying time in area swimming pools. From the moment they lined up this past Monday when the pools first reopened to the time they’ve spent in the water, we’ve seen many examples of polite behavior and proper social distancing. They’ve stayed at least six feet apart as they waited their turns to get in the water and they been respectful of the pool monitors who also should be commended for keeping order and making a potentially difficult situation run smoothly.
Florida might be reopening but we all know we’re far from seeing the end of the COVID-19 crisis. It’s up to each and every one of us to do our part to continue to slow the spread of this pandemic so the day will come that we can put it behind us once and for all. But for that to happen, every Villager and those in power in the community like Rohan will have to make sacrifices and follow the guidelines that have been put in place – regardless of whether its inconvenient or it cramps their style or desired active social lives.