Jan 24, 2022 - News

One Canadian's take on Florida's pandemic response

Animated illustration of a speech bubble with animated typing ellipses shaped like Canadian maple leaves

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

A Canadian journalist who vacationed in Florida and then made fun of the Sunshine State has stirred up a social media hornet's nest of debates about individual liberty and government mandates.

  • "While Quebec is in full confinement mode, Florida is Cowboyland, where you barely know COVID is happening, despite much higher new case and hospitalization rates than ours," writes columnist Josh Freed in the Montreal Gazette.
  • "It's lunacy by Canadian standards, but an eye-opening experience."

Why it matters: Set aside the knee-jerk politics and the column is an opportunity to see Florida culture as our northern neighbors see us.

Yes, but: How you feel about Florida's collective pandemic response will determine how you feel about this column.

The column: To vacation here from Montreal, where thousands have protested strict government mandates, like a curfew, is to arrive "on another planet," Freed writes.

  • "By any measure, Florida life seems surreal, as if everyone's wearing blinders and trying not to notice a disease that’s killed more than 63,000 Floridians. That's about twice as many deaths as in all of Canada, in a state with two-thirds our country's population."

Details: Freed was shocked that our packed stores and restaurants don't require masks and that:

  • Some servers and clerks wear masks under their chins, "Florida-style."
  • We gather for games, movies, drinks, etc.
  • Our news media doesn't focus nonstop on COVID and neither do our social interactions.
  • "In Florida, entire conversations happen without the C-word mentioned," he writes.

The bottom line: There's a "psychological upside" in Florida that Freed found appealing.

  • "We Montrealers live in a tense, depressing pandemic bubble — all-COVID, all the time — which is why many people avoid following the news."

Between the lines: As Freed points out, thousands from Quebec have considered moving to Florida.


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