We all learned something very important Friday as the town squares prepared to reopen with live entertainment – anybody, including the president of the United States, can catch COVID-19.
Just one year after a healthy President Trump held a rally in The Villages, the world was left in shock Friday as he announced that he and First Lady Melania Trump had contracted the potentially deadly virus. While some will argue that Trump didn’t take necessary precautions and rarely wore a mask, the message is loud and clear – we all are in danger of becoming the next victim of COVID-19.
With that warning in mind, we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – we sincerely hope that Villagers will take this pandemic seriously as they head out to the three town squares on Monday night. And while they are there to enjoy live music and a drink or two, we’re imploring them to use commonsense and take precautions against the virus that continues to plague The Villages and surrounding communities.
We know Villagers have cabin fever. Many of them have been calling for the town squares to reopen for quite some time after they were abruptly shut down in March when the first cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed in Florida. And if the lines on Friday of Villagers seeking passes to get into Spanish Springs Town Square, Lake Sumter Landing Market Square and Brownwood Paddock Square are any indication of what’s to come, taking precautions will be a necessity.
We must all remember that even though the number of new COVID-19 cases has dropped in recent months, this deadly pandemic is far from over. Both Sumter County and The Villages have seen recent spikes in cases and it only stands to reason that those numbers could get worse if the crowds at the town squares don’t take plenty of precautions.
While we still question the decision to reopen the squares amid the ongoing pandemic – especially given recent spikes in cases locally – we will give The Villages credit for announcing a plan that includes built-in measures of protection for area residents. Those include:
- Passes will be required for entry to the square. The passes are free and available at The Villages Box Office at tickets.thevillages.com.
- Staff members will man a single entry and exit point to limit the crowd size.
- There will be a limited capacity that allows for social distancing.
- Happy hour will be temporarily suspended. Drinks will be available at the bar huts at the squares, but lines will be discouraged. Coolers will not be allowed. Neither will be outside alcohol.
- Masks are “requested,” but not required.
Also, chairs won’t be provided at the town squares, meaning residents should bring their own. That measure will help eliminate the possibility of multiple people sitting in chairs throughout the night and possibly acquiring the virus from sweat left behind from Villagers who have been dancing and socializing.
On Friday, Florida was reporting 711,804 cases of COVID-19, with 19,890 being reported in the tri-county area and 662 in The Villages. If everyone uses commonsense and continues to follow the important guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that number hopefully won’t make a significant jump anytime soon.
The bottom line is this: The precautions you take now could have an impact on the lives of your friends and neighbors in the days and weeks to come. That, alone, should be reason enough to do the right thing.