themighty logo

My COVID-19 Point of View: What Life Is Like in Sarasota, Florida

What’s happening in Sarasota, Florida: My name is Angelica Catalano. I live in Brooklyn, NY but have been staying with family in Sarasota, FL for months now. I’m the Director of Social Impact at The Mighty, and I’ve lived with ulcerative colitis most of my life. The past two years, I’ve been in remission. If I contract COVID, my immunomodulating medicine could make the intensity of my symptoms worse, though it’s essential I continue take it. I also have asthma.

I definitely miss exploring New York City’s boroughs, attending concerts and museums. Instead I’ve been enjoying socially-distant activities: cooking new recipes, reconnecting with nature, swimming, reading and scoping out the least crowded tennis courts I’d feel comfortable using.

Since a spike after Forth of July weekend, Florida has over 224,000 COVID-19 cases and 3,888 deaths. I’m an hour away from Tampa, FL — Hillsborough county has over 16,099 confirmed cases. Sarasota, FL currently has a fraction of these cases, but all the charts show the numbers rapidly rising.

Modeling a mask for my friend’s fashion mask Etsy store. See link below.

My observations about masks: Though I haven’t been venturing out much, I ask friends and family what it’s like each time they go out. Here’s what I’ve gathered.

  • Grocery store: about 60% people wear masks. Supplies at stores like Publix are mostly full, but the produce is poor quality at multiple different grocery stores.
  • The ice cream store: 0% masks for staff and patrons
  • Hair salon: 100% masks (my dad went to Yellow Strawberry and they did a great job staying fully masked)
  • Dentist office: 100% masks (my dad also went to Lakewood Ranch Dental, got his own waiting room and felt safe)
  • Restaurants: 0% masks on the patrons. We’ve picked up food on a few occasions from restaurants where the staff all wears masks. Though there are some restaurants in the area where even the staff is not wearing them.
  • Doctor’s office: 100% masks

As of June 26, the state banned alcohol consumption at all bars. 

I don’t believe we should shame people for not following CDC guidelines. Instead, my hope is we strive to better understand the data, and the real perspectives of at-risk populations.

The waitress handed out disposable menus and wore a mask like the rest of the staff. I had my sanitizer by my side and wasn’t very relaxed, which defeats the purpose of dining out.

My experience out of the house: I went out of the house one weekend to a private beach in Longboat Key, FL. This was the one time I dined out since March, and I plan to not do that again any time soon given the rising cases in Florida. The restaurant had an outdoor space where all the staff wore masks, and tables were six feet apart. I went after the lunch rush, so there were only two other tables full. The waitress handed out disposable menus and wore a mask like the rest of the staff. I had my sanitizer by my side and wasn’t very relaxed, which defeats the purpose of dining out.

My health: All of my doctor appointments are telemedicine. Luckily I’m not on an infusion drug anymore, so it’s easy to take all of my medicine. I’ve tried to get a three-month supply of my pills so that I don’t need to frequently fill them, but insurance denied it. I’m supposed to go in for routine bloodwork. My doctor added a COVID antibody test to the lab order. During winter in New York I had a flu-like virus that gave me fever, chills and shortness of breath. So it is possible I already had COVID.

My quality of life: I’m feeling restless being away from my friends and cute, little apartment (although it’s hot this time of year!). I’m lucky to have family I’ve enjoyed spending quality time with. I don’t take for granted having two grandparents who I get to drop off supplies to and see from a distance. I don’t believe my work has been negatively affected, because I have more time to work now that I’m not commuting. 

How we had to celebrate my grandma’s 87th birthday! Also pictured: grandpa, 92

Honestly, my social life has had the biggest hit. I’ve only seen a few friends who came by, including my physician friend who already tested positive for COVID and recovered fully. I personally won’t feel OK leaving the 60+ members of my family (with preexisting conditions) alone until Florida shows some signs of controlling the outbreak.

Personally I’m excited to fly on an airplane, see my friends in person and return to my life in New York, feeling confident my family will be safe.

My hopes for the future: It seems we have enough data showing the communities who upheld mask and social distance requirements were the most successful in flattening the curve. I would love to see everyone in Florida show compassion for others by wearing masks and social distancing as much as possible. I’d like to be assured that medical workers have enough personal protective equipment (PPE) and hospitals have enough ICU beds as COVID complications continue to rise. I really hope we continue to treat this as an important public health issue for all Americans. 

Personally I’m excited to fly on an airplane, see my friends in person and return to my life in New York, feeling confident my family will be safe. In general, I hope this pandemic will get more people invested in public health issues and the well-being of our fellow citizens. 

Local Resources: 

You can find Angelica’s mask on Etsy here.

Images provided by Angelica