The Fear Is Palatable When the Americans Arrive
By Tone Daley
What makes our country a pariah?
Is it because we have no messiah,
To lead us down the proper path?
Is it a failure of our leaders to do the math?
All these things and more
Contribute to our abysmal score.
Containing the pandemic is a must
If we are to regain the world’s trust.
I love my country. Don’t take it the wrong way when I tell you that Americans abroad face Covid-19 discrimination, and for good reason. As I connected through Ft. Lauderdale on my way to the Bahamas last Friday I got to see what a stark difference exists between the Florida directives on the pandemic and those in the Bahamas. First, while waiting at the gate for our departing flight I observed numerous unmasked individuals. While masks are required onboard the planes, they are evidently voluntary in this Florida terminal. Plus, there were numerous, what I will call, “chin hangers”. These are individuals that are so inconvenienced by wearing a mask they pull them down, exposing their nose and/or mouth. I asked a few vendors at the gate area about their experience with mask compliance. They all report interacting with indignant people who complained about the mask saying things like, “It’s too hot”, “I can’t breathe”, and “I have the right to do as I choose, it’s not the law”.
Juxtapose that with we found when we got off the plane in the Bahamas. Everyone was wearing a mask, keeping their distance from passengers and coworkers. Upon entering the terminal to clear customs there was signage regarding the pandemic and your responsibilities as a visitor. We presented our passports, Bahamian Health Visa and a copy of our negative Covid-19 tests to the customs agent. Once we were granted admission, we walked out of the terminal and we were met by police officers who made sure we had a mask on and that it completely covered our face. Our taxi driver had signs in his car that reinforced the country restrictions along with a dispenser for hand sanitizer. This was day three of the Bahamas allowing commercial air and sea traffic to enter the country. And, being one of the only nearby countries allowing Americans to enter, they are getting a flood of folks from the U.S. with the majority coming from or through Florida. We, in the U.S., have had a cavalier attitude about our individual responsibility and no federal response to contain the virus. We left the decisions up to the states and therefore we have created a quilt work of disparate policies where the virus is free to spread.
Bahamians are scared and for good reason. There have been no infections on the island where we are staying. It’s a small island with a strong community spirit and they want to stay infection free. Everyone is wearing a mask outside their house, without exception. If you enter a store you are greeted with signs limiting the number of patrons who can be inside at once. There are dispensers for hand sanitizer at the door and you must sanitize your hands each time you enter. Signs stating the mask requirement say that it must “completely cover your nose and mouth or you will be asked to leave”. There’s a strict 10:00 PM curfew for everyone. Late night clubbing and partying, a staple of the Bahamas, is a big no-no with the police on night patrol fining those who are not compliant. This is serious business for the Bahamas. They depend on tourism for their survival, but they value their lives enough to demand compliance or they will have you removed from the store, restaurant and even the country.
Think about a virus, like Covid-19, getting a foothold on an island and what that would mean for the locals if they became a modern-day leper colony. In that case, no one could come to the island and they would slowly die from either the virus or lack of tourist income. Today is day five of our visit and I’m finding a great deal of comfort knowing that my compliance has allowed me to become part of the community. The beach is beautiful and uncrowded, for now. I don’t think I have ever seen the beach cleaner or ocean so clear and inviting. I’m enjoying being here and not fearing getting infected every time I go to the grocery or hardware store like in the America. The reality in the U.S. is that we are likely to stay on the list of countries that are not welcome to enter most countries until we get our act together on a federal level.. For someone who makes their living traveling internationally, this situation really sucks and needs fixing before it’s too late.