For a little bit, Florida and Highlands County seemed like they were back to normal. We opened up bars, restaurants, and other dearly missed establishments. We opened up beaches and allowed thousands to visit.

Things were nothing short of great. Within the span of a month, we threw away all the progress we had ever made. Our cases began to skyrocket and hospitalizations began to increase. Bars had to shut back down again and our reopening process came to a screeching halt. We have people still refusing to believe that we are doing as bad as we really are.

One of the biggest misconceptions I have read about is that because we have more testing, we have more cases. Therefore, the pandemic cannot be so bad. This has even been repeated nonstop by President Trump through his tweets and his news conferences.

In reality, our positivity rate is going back up to dangerously high levels.

According to Johns Hopkins University, our positivity rate was as low as 2.8% towards the end of May. As of July 9th, the state of Florida’s positivity rate was at 19.6%. This misconception is defended by the fact that large protests were held in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death. The protests and the riots passed the virus amongst those in attendance, which is causing this higher positivity rate.

Again, another misconception that can be invalidated by looking at our county. We had exactly three small protests, with all of them promoting the use of masks and the use of social distancing. At last Tuesday’s Board of County Commission meeting, Emergency Management Manager LaTosha Reiss confirmed that our case doubling rate went down from 40 days to 20.8 days and our hospitalization rate has increased to 26.38%.

Then you have those who believe that masks do not prevent the spread of the virus and that they should not have to wear masks. This claim is then debunked by Dr. Deborah Birx, who stated at last Wednesday’s Coronavirus Task Force meeting that studies show that even cloth masks work. She even stated that these masks can be designed to give people some sense of personal identity. Even then, some might state “If masks work, then why do we have to stay six feet apart? If the six feet works, then why the masks?”. This becomes the equivalent of questioning if a car’s brakes work, then why the seatbelt? If the seatbelt works, why the brakes? If the seatbelt and the brakes work, why the airbags?

As a result of people not wanting to follow these protocols, we are stuck where we are at. Restaurants cannot open fully, bars are shut down, people are dying everyday, and patients are being admitted to the hospital. Compare this to the European Union, which had very tight regulations to prevent the spread. They only experienced one wave of the pandemic and had approximately half the amount of cases with nearly 100 million more people in their borders. Now the European Union is the one closing its borders on us, as they issued a travel ban against those coming from the United States. That is where we are at. Well into this pandemic and no signs of slowing down.

Miguel Arceo is a student athlete at Sebring High School. ^p