Suzetter Porter sig

Fortunately, more people are beginning to take the threat from the coronavirus seriously. But not all; and that’s what it will take to make a real difference in this fight.

Never forget — there is no vaccine and there is no proven cure, although there are some drugs being used on an experimental basis on patients with the most severe cases.

I’m getting quite a few questions in my email about what information is being reported and what is not. I’m sorry Florida Department of Health isn’t reporting how many people are actually recovering from the virus at this time.

And yes, the DOH and the media are mostly reporting on the number of cases and sadly the number of deaths. But, that’s important because it focuses attention on why we should stay home, practice social distancing (group of 10 or less with people 6 feet apart), wash our hands and all the other measures we can take to try to stay well.

One of the questions I was asked was why we don’t report more on the “infection areas,” so people can steer clear of businesses and other locations where an infected person might have been.

I think the experts would tell you to consider everything outside your home to be an infection area. Businesses that use vigorous sanitizing measures are doing the best they can to keep their customers safe, but no one knows who at any one time might be shopping and be infected with COVID-19.

In addition, experts say the virus doesn’t stay infectious in the air for more than three hours or on surfaces for more than four days — much less for most surfaces. The time between when the person was in a store or other location and when the person tests positive for the virus most frequently is four days or more.

This is why officials are urging everyone to stay at home and practice social distancing. It’s our best defense.

County Commission Chair Pat Gerard provided some advice at a recent media briefing when she said we should conduct ourselves as if we had the virus. I might add that we also should consider that everyone around us has it too.

I get that it’s boring to be stuck in your home and to have to stay away from family and friends. But be grateful. Some people don’t have a home to be stuck in and five Pinellas County residents have died due to the coronavirus as of Sunday night. Thirty-six were in the hospital being treated.

Untold numbers of healthcare workers and first responders in Pinellas are working under dangerous conditions, trying to treat those who are sick and conducting tests to isolate those who don’t yet know they have the illness. I bet they would prefer to be stuck in their house binge watching movies, playing games, talking to others on social media and other activities.

Grocery store workers, restaurant employees, pharmacists, public works employees, truckers and others are still doing their essential jobs to keep the necessities available for us all. Again, we should be grateful instead of complaining.

And then there is a large group of people who are home because they have no job right now. They’re freaked out because they don’t know how they’ll pay their bills, buy groceries or other necessities.

Pinellas is a tourism-dominated county and the hospitality industry is huge. Imagine how many people lost their jobs, at least temporarily, when the bars had to shut down and restaurants had to close their dining rooms. Tourists have stopped coming and that means people who worked at local hotels and motels are likely home without an income as well.

We’re all scared. We all want to figure out the least painful way to stay safe. That’s understandable. But still, others are completely ignoring the seriousness of the situation.

For example, after the county closed the beaches, some took their parties to the spoil islands and sand bars. This past weekend law enforcement took to the water cracking down on boaters traveling in groups to party. Parents allowed as many as 30 children on playground equipment. Yes, playground equipment is closed now too.

It reminds me of when a hurricane is forecast and we all rush out to get supplies because we didn’t follow the advice of emergency management to prepare ahead. And then as the hurricane draws closer and it looks as if it might be headed our way, people begin to joke about plans for hurricane parties.

When an evacuation order is given, some refuse to heed those orders, instead planning to ride it out, expecting our first responders to be there if they need help. We’ve all been told that first responders won’t come when storm winds begin to impact our area. Still they call 911 for help.

Now, we have a different kind of storm — one that affects us all. We’ve been told the best way to stay safe. We’ve been told why. We can see evidence of the toll COVID-19 is taking on our community, the state, the nation and the world, and still some would rather ignore the need to do what’s right for the good of everyone around them.

Again, they are depending on someone else to save them from their own lack of responsibility.

I don’t know what needs to happen to make some believe. Heaven forbid they or someone they love gets a severe case of coronavirus and dies.

This isn’t a hard request being made of us. Social distancing is not that difficult. Staying home is not the end of the world. But getting the virus could be.

Just stay home. Please.

Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at sporter@tbnweekly.com.