Thousands of Maryland college students returned to class on Monday after a brief mid-semester respite ... It’s probably safe to assume that some of the more adventurous of the undergraduate set either has made, or is planning to make, the trek to Florida or a similar clime. We have no problem with that, we all need a getaway now and again.
We do have a problem, however, with young adults treating their deserved vacations like a rock concert gone bad and failing to maintain social distance or wear masks, like occurred in Miami Beach over the weekend, leading to an emergency curfew and police intervention to try to disperse the massive crowds. They may well have dragged home an unwelcome souvenir, a little COVID-19, to finish out the spring term.
This was all so predictable, beginning with the choice by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to not only lift restrictions, but prevent local governments from imposing mask mandates. If anyone was chomping at the bit for the pandemic to be over (beyond Florida businesses that profit off spring break), it’s 18-to-22-year-olds, who already feel invulnerable and are looking for a good time ...
The problem here is not just spring break. And it’s not just Governor DeSantis. No, the underlying issue continues to be the public’s COVID-19 fatigue and the desire to let our collective guard down as the nation makes progress in vaccinations. Florida spring break is just the most visible sign of this concerning trend.
As Dr. Anthony Fauci and other public health experts have stated repeatedly: This is not let the moment to lift vital safety measures.
It is all very well to relax certain restrictions where appropriate. As teachers are vaccinated and schools move ahead with responsible reopening plans, in-person instruction is sensible, particularly given its own public health benefits. But lifting mask restrictions isn’t — despite the claim that individuals can make responsible choices. It sends a spring break-like message that the pandemic is no longer a serious threat when it is. Just ask the colleagues, friends and families of the 26 Maryland residents who died from the coronavirus on Saturday alone. Or perhaps those of the 8,000 Marylanders who lost their own battles with COVID-19 during the past year. It’s not over until it’s over.
That’s not a fun message. That’s not a good time to think about. It’s not a party on the beach and it’s definitely not the return to normal that all of us crave. But this is a serious business ... Sorry, but the moment to celebrate the end of the pandemic has not yet arrived.
This editorial was first published March 22 in the Baltimore Sun.