Thursday, December 17, 2020

Local politician imposes new COVID curbs…while in Canada on vacation

 Reposted with permission from The Tampa Bay Guardian 

Hillsborough County Commission Chairwoman Patricia Kemp (D) yesterday voted for two new local laws that place additional COVID restrictions on local businesses. People in Hillsborough County may no longer stand at bars to eat and drink, gather on dance floors, and so-called “congregating areas” in nightclubs are prohibited. The new ordinance also requires that businesses make a reasonable attempt to enforce these local orders.

Importantly, Kemp failed to disclose that she was chairing today’s meeting from Toronto, Canada, a city under lockdown due to COVID. Kemp is in Toronto on personal business, and will therefore currently not have to live under or enforce the new restrictions she voted for. Hillsborough county businesses, individuals and law enforcement will.

The timing and optics of Kemp’s trip to Toronto could not have been worse as the City of Toronto today reported a single-day record of 850 cases. According to the Ontario Ministry of Health, Toronto currently has 159 active outbreaks of COVID. There is therefore a real possibility that Kemp could bring COVID with her back to the Tampa Bay area.

“The more cases at your destination, the more likely you are to get infected during travel and spread the virus to others when you return,” says the Florida Department of Health in its COVID advice. Kemp’s action also calls in to question whether she actually believes that COVID is a serious public health threat. If she did, why would she travel to a COVID hotspot? And then not disclose it to constituents. Just last month, Kemp was re-elected to another 4-year term on the county commission.

Canada requires all travelers entering Canada to self-quarantine for 14 days. We asked Kemp via e-mail whether she had done so, and also asked some other questions. Kemp did not respond to our email by our publication deadline.

It is also unknown whether Kemp has followed the CDC recommendations for international travel, which call for a COVID test 1-3 days before travel, along with a long list of other steps to take. Should Kemp fall seriously ill with COVID in Toronto, whether acquired there or in the Tampa Bay area, she could add to their already overburdened healthcare system.

Toronto is currently at 86% of ICU bed capacity, and the number of cases continue to increase. On its “COVID Monitoring Dashboard” as shown below, the city reports both its “Virus Spread & Containment” status and “Overall Status” as “Red.”

Kemp voted to prohibit “congregation areas” in nightclubs, without evidence that such restrictions would alleviate COVID, while still allowing people congregate in malls, Costco, Sam’s Club, airports and other places.

As mentioned above, businesses are required to enforce all these new restrictions. However, some fed up businesses may decide that “calling the police” will be their sole enforcement mechanism.

Apart from not really believing that COVID is a crisis, it appears that Kemp also doesn’t believe that we have a “climate crisis.” Kemp spoke of a “climate crisis” during her re-election campaign. Kemp’s 2,190 air mile roundtrip to Toronto and airport transfers puts approximately 1,000 pounds of additional carbon dioxide in to the atmosphere. By comparison, the average person exhales about 2.3 pounds of carbon dioxide on an average day.

Had Kemp traveled to Toronto by bus instead of flying, her carbon dioxide impact would have been reduced by 55 – 77%. Yes, the trip would have taken longer, but do we have a crisis or don’t we?

Perhaps Pat Kemp should stay out of the county and out of the country until COVID is completely over? That way, she won’t ever have to comply with the restrictions she imposes on others, and residents won’t have to wonder if she brought back disease from that COVID hotspot she traveled to.

Kemp could also spend her time away learning a new concept: “flight shame.” It’s a sentiment that acts as an antidote to hypocrisy.