Social Distancing and Good Samaritans

Keys people making a real difference

We are living in what the old Chinese blessing/curse described as “interesting times.” Not many of us (outside of epidemiologists and virologists) could have predicted what we’re going through right now. But as so many of us dependent upon the tourist industry, myself included, have been sidelined without work and are trying to deal with the lack of income, others have risen above to make a real difference in kindness.

There is no dearth of negativity and bad information out there on the InterWebz, and a lot of it is designed to scare the bejesus out of people unnecessarily. And there are a lot of rumors and fear mongering on social media, all in competition with the real information many of us are trying to disseminate. So maybe it’s time to turn off the devices for a little while each day. Go out for a walk or boat ride and soak up some Vitamin D, something coronavirus hates. (Please maintain your social distance.) Close the Facebook. And get inspired by our Keys locals who are making a difference every day.

Mike Forster, owner of Mangrove Mike’s Café in Islamorada, has been providing free meals to locals affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Assisted by food, supplies and monetary donations from local residents and businesses, Mike has been serving up free takeout lunches every day in front of his restaurant. As Mike told a Weekly reporter, “We need to take care of each other. We have a lot of employees who are out of work and don’t have a paycheck coming this week or next week. This is what we need to do to be a united, compassionate community.”

Mike has inspired others to help where they can. Some, like Erik Steinmetz, have really pitched in. Erik sent Mike a $500 check and has pledged to do so every week the crisis lasts. This is typical of Keys people coming together to help each other in the face of a crisis. We see it all the time after storms, and I’m glad to see it alive and well now.

The Monroe County School District is to be commended for finding a way to get school breakfasts and lunches to kids who need them. Their Grab ’n’ Go Breakfast and Lunch program is available Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. until noon at school and community sites countywide (the local Middle Keys site is Marathon Middle High School). Meals are available to all children 18 and younger, and the child must be in the vehicle to get the meal. For more information, visit keysschools.com.

Community Health of South Florida (CHI) set up a drive-through coronavirus testing site at Marathon Community Park this past week. Marianne Finizio and her staff did a great job helping address the situation and providing tests at a local level. We need to be prepared to handle new COVID-19 cases in the Keys, and the first step is testing. CHI knows how to ensure the limited number of tests we have go to test people who really need them. Kudos to them and all the other health care professionals in our community.

There are many local examples… Fish Tales, which got in a supply of meats and chicken for locals after grocery store shelves were cleaned out… the Hurricane, which includes a 20% gratuity that goes to help their staff hang on… Publix, Walgreens and Winn Dixie for opening early for seniors so they can shop in a cleaner environment… If you have any great local stories, send them my way at: [email protected].

Regardless of my earlier paragraph, there are some good things happening on Facebook. Sarah Cizmas has posted some funny and cute photos and videos of her pets. Josh Mothner has posted some really cool links to great music. And there is a new Facebook group called How to Have Fun Under Corona Quarantine that features amusing posts designed to look at one’s own self-isolation in a humorous way.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t inform you about my Social Distancing Concert, a Facebook Live event this Friday, March 27 at 7:30 p.m., at my Facebook page. Stay safe and healthy, try to stay sane, and remember this (as told to me by a local therapist): uncertainty wouldn’t nearly be so unsettling if I just knew how things would turn out.

When not updating social media with accurate information from the city, county, state and other authorities, John will play his Social Distancing Concert on Friday, March 27 at 7:30 p.m. at: www.facebook.com/john.bartus

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