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Key West is never going to be “post-Covid-19,” so let’s figure out our “next life”

by | 05/05/2021

Clueless Key West girl. I did it again. Hopped on an elevator in Miami Tuesday sans mask. Oblivious of naked face until a mom and her little ones, all masked, even the toddlers, stopped and looked at me funny. I did that goofy thing of pulling up my shirt, got off and hiked back to the car. Mortified doesn’t begin.

I know a bunch of you are sniffing sanctimoniously about how you are never without your mask. How you wear it because you’re taking care of others. After a year and a half, heaven knows, we’ve all got our personal mask rules, rights and rituals down to the proverbial science and we love that adrenaline frisson that follows the sighting of someone not following “our” rules.

Like so many whose well-being rests, not in political headlines and social media snarking, but in our daily chores, family and work, I’m plotting my re-entry road. Not a post-Covid re-entry; Covid-19 with all its nastiness will be with us forever. Instead, re-entry into what the world has become, adapting and accommodating and generally getting on with things.

This week Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis lifted any remaining state Covid restrictions and told municipalities they couldn’t enforce their own. The governor’s fans huzzah-ed. His detractors? Not so much.

Me? Meh.

Since mask-and-distance enforcement in the Keys, including Key West, has been, to be generous, spotty since the shut down last March, there’s little likelihood we’ll see much change. People who’ve worn masks will keep wearing them, though with less paranoia. Those who didn’t won’t magically start.

Businesses, schools, government buildings, organizations, entertainment venues, churches, your house can still require you to add a mask under their “no shoes, no shirt, no service” rule. All they need is a copy machine for new signs. Whether I’m going to wrestle you to the ground if you walk mask-less into my house depends on my mood.

It’s time to figure out your re-entry strategies. Because, like it or not, we are “done” with Covid-19. We know the drill. Get the shot. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Don’t get all crowded. (Same advice comes in handy in preventing the annual Key West Crud, for that matter.)

The government isn’t going to set a bunch of rules, much less enforce them. We’re going to stop counting cases and deaths in daily headlines and website tickers – just like we long ago stopped paying collective attention to daily cases of influenza (and mass shootings, but that’s for another day.)

We might not like this and, for sure, there’s no end in sight to continuing Covid-19 cases, deaths and disruptions. But it’s magical thinking to believe we’re going to head in any other direction.

Here’s my re-entry plan. Feel free to lift it or tweak it to suit yourself. If you don’t feel comfortable, it’s OK to wait until you do. Just don’t expect the rest of the world to accommodate you. That ship, so to speak, has sailed. We can’t retrofit the mess we made 18 months ago; the best we can do is figure out how to live in it.

Keep wearing the mask inside public places. Most places will require them. I may keep mine handy forever because it does wonders for mitigating allergies and Key West Crud. Plus, I can make faces and you’ll never know.

Get off the rock. Go visit your family in Vermont and friends in the neighborhood, especially if they’ve been vaccinated. The longer you put off this nerve-wracking step, the harder it will be. It feels weird the first couple times one ventures into the outside world. Then you realize, hey, it’s OK.

Ditch the mask outside. I did that months ago unless I could see people. Sure, I kept it handy, but, folks, when I walked the neighborhood or biked through the cemetery, I did not have that mask over my nose. Same now.

No more casual hand shaking and hugging. My upbringing said ladies didn’t shake hands. I’m going back to that. Gone, too, those air hugs and kisses. And because fist and elbow bumps are totally ridiculous for anyone except the cool kids, I’m sticking to a pleasant nod.

Refuse to engage the trolls. The mask and anti-mask warriors have lost none of their convictions – and no one is changing hearts and minds – so they keep social media flaming with memes, links and assorted jerkings of chains. Give it up. Scroll past. Change the subject at happy hour.

 

It’s time to find our “next life,” to plot a careful path with appropriate risks, to shrug off the contrived safety of our cocoons and learn to live again. You’re welcome to join me.

Linda Grist Cunningham

Proprietor & Editor

Linda Grist Cunningham is proprietor and editor of KeyWestWatch Media LLC and Key West Island News. She is a nationally recognized legacy newspaper editor and publishing executive with more than 40 years of professional experience.

Cunningham is a veteran journalist who relocated to Key West in 2012, when legacy media proved itself too cumbersome to change with and adapt to today’s information world. She built her new media company business plan, packed up four cats (now the Cat 5s) and a husband and launched her digital solutions company for small businesses and not-for-profits. Key West Island News went live in 2018.

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