How Palm Beach County Helps Us Help Each Other

Voters now realize more than ever what government means to them. And in the case of the coronavirus pandemic, lives and livelihoods are now at risk.

Nick Moschella, Executive Editor, The Palm Beach Post writing about Political Editor Antonio Fins.

With Florida’s coronavirus cases surpassing the 1 million mark, Governor Ron DeSantis surfaced from weeks of laying low to give voice to an imaginary universe. “I’m opposed to mandates period. I don’t think they work,” DeSantis appears to be still playing up to Trump, who disdained masks from the start and made mask-wearing so voluntary that he turned the White House and his rally locations into infection hot spots … At this point, DeSantis is just sucking up to a guy who’s a month away from hiding out in Florida in an illegal long-term living arrangement at the Mar-a-Lago Club to avoid the New York tax-fraud prosecutors.

Thank god for local government. As Isaac Morton reported in the Florida Phoenix, many of Florida’s 67 counties have mandated masks, including Palm Beach County where we live. When the governor threw open the state at the end of September — ushering in the explosion in cases — he also appeared to take the teeth out of the mask mandates by denying counties the ability to impose fines for rule-breakers.

What he didn’t say was that counties are empowered to establish the rules for businesses operating within their jurisdictions. Palm Beach County’s June 24, 2020 mandatory masks order continues in place unaffected.

Mandating the wearing of facial coverings in all businesses and establishments and in outdoor public spaces where social distancing is not possible.

Palm Beach County Executive Order

Palm Beach County backed up their words with a good deed — mailing out County masks to all its residents. We have used them in place of my early, hand-made efforts.

From what we can see, and unlike the push-back videos that went viral over the summer, people are following these orders in their daily errands. The county hasn’t had to fine anyone, though — as a former budget examiner — I’ll bet their fiscal office would love to count on the revenue stream from people like this Costco customer.

What you can’t change, you should at least make money on. Maybe it’s time for a sin tax, like those on cigarettes and alcohol. A pandemic pay-up, to be earmarked for PPE.

Meanwhile, the rest of us are rolling up our sleeves and masking up. We just received a new batch of masks from Palm Beach County and will wear them with pride.

Get the picture?

We Are All Masked Humans

Face masks for medical staff — an essential component of the newly endangered Personal Protective Equipment — came into the public’s consciousness as the coronavirus pandemic took hold. On CBS’ Sunday Morning a couple of weeks ago, host Jane Pauley introduced a touching segment about one community’s collective efforts to produce masks:

Some of the most effective weapons against COVID-19 are turning out to be a needle and thread.

Jane Pauley, CBS Sunday Morning

A group in my community of Wellington, Florida, Sewing Love for our Neighbors is making face masks for first responders, senior citizens, and others.

Sewing Love for our Neighbors

A local taqueria is donating a mask with every order. And, since this is Florida, the owner of All American Gator is making face masks with python and alligator skin.

Pythons are an invasive species that are hunted in the Everglades

My own efforts are pretty lame. I once had a sewing machine, the one my mother used in the 1970s to make a line dresses with Simplicity patterns in the basement rec room of our split level house the Maryland suburbs. I must have found it in my parents’ basement on Cape Cod some 20 years ago and driven back across the Mass Pike to our home in Albany, where I was now the one living in suburbs with a young daughter.

My use was sporadic, at best, and the machine did not come with us when we retired and moved to Florida. When I found a bagful of our daughter’s Girl Scout badges that I’d never attached to her sash, I sewed them on by hand last year and wrapped them up as a Christmas gift. She’s 27.

This is all to say that I’ve been hacking away by hand at making a couple of masks for my husband and me to wear when we leave home. Although we are staying away from stores, doctors’ offices, and other public spots, we walk our dog in the neighborhood, and having something across our noses and mouths reminds us that we are living through this pandemic.

I cleared off the kitchen table, found You Tube instructions, set up the iron (which we use so rarely that we haven’t replaced the ironing board that got caught in a closet and somehow bent months ago), and dug out my mother’s old sewing basket.

Old pjs….

My first attempt involved a pair of roomy flannel pajama bottoms with a handy drawstring for ties. I rather forgot that South Florida is already approaching the steamy season, so my product fogged up my glasses and quickly grew heavy with sweat. On a positive note, I’m pretty sure I was giving myself a facial with every outing!

Writing table becomes sewing table
So proud of myself
Until I put it on.
My Amsterdam pjs

So I went back into my pajama drawer to see what other fabrics might work, and there were the pair of lighter pants that Ray bought in Amsterdam for me to wear in the hospital. It felt good to be re-purposing these vestiges of that medical saga, but the overall effect was still more The Invisible (Wo)Man than the safety precaution.

When I was making the flannel mask, I was wearing an old pair of yoga pants and also watching television. I say this because while snipping at fabric and threads I also snipped a hole in the knee of my pants. So, that’s the fabric I’m trying out now. Or maybe the old pillowcases in the closet. There’s lots of time ahead of us to figure this out.

On April 3, an LA Times article posited that face masks may be here to stay. Through either direct orders or guidelines — isn’t it crazy how we fight a commandement? — people are wearing masks to protect their noses and mouths from the coronavirus, particularly if the prescribed 6 foot distancing protocol can’t be assured.

Even our dog’s doing the mask thing. In his case, it’s a muzzle, a precaution that’s protecting him — and other dogs — from aggressive tendencies so completely at odd with his personality that continues to happily bloom while he is away from other canines. He is calm, sweet, easygoing, dear. Social distancing is giving him time to separate from whatever happened before he was rescued by Labrador Retriever Rescue of Florida. It turns out that this Baskerville model is also a very handy chew toy…

Sooner or later, I’ll make or buy good, sturdy masks that my husband and I can wear with confidence, but it’ll be a while before we venture forth. Until then, we will be caring for each other and Kumba at home. Please stay safe, be well, and wash your hands.

Good boy, Kumba!

Random Acts of Kindness

This Letter to the Editor appeared in The Palm Beach Post on March 29, 2020:

Several days ago, while waiting in the checkout line at my local CVS, I noticed a young Asian woman ahead of me was wearing a facial mask.

I asked her where she had bought it. In very soft, hesitant English, she said she needed them for work and had bought a box of them before the coronavirus outbreak. She proceeded to check out and leave the store.

I then checked out and started to leave, when I saw her reentering the store and walking toward me with an envelope in her hand. She said she always kept extra facemasks in the car and offered them to me. It took all my strength to suppress the urge to hug her. Shocked, I profusely thanked her instead.

She was a complete stranger helping another complete stranger. She had no idea that she was not only helping out an elderly person, but one that was also undergoing chemotherapy treatments and needed that extra layer of protection.

It was a beautiful example of human kindness and generosity I’ll never forget and will try to pass it forward.

JY, Delray Beach
The Palm Beach Post