THE VILLAGES, Fla. — They trickled into a theater resembling a barn and refashioned as a site administering antibodies to treat covid-19: retired couples holding gloved hands, an elderly man stumbling as a woman held his arm, paramedics donning oxygen masks.
Other retirees zipped past the theater on bicycles and in golf carts, whizzing through the busy shopping and entertainment plaza in the nation’s largest retirement community.
Sara Branscome, 61, marveled at how life goes on amid crisis as she sat masked in her home’s screened patio several miles away.
After returning to the gym for just two weeks, she stopped going as case numbers soared during Florida’s devastating summer coronavirus wave and as friends and acquaintances became infected, including a member of her synagogue who died. She has been on shutdown mode ever since.
“We did everything,” Branscome lamented. “And why is it that we have to be the ones who do everything again?”
“Experts attribute Florida’s high death count to its substantial population of older residents, which means even an unvaccinated minority includes hundreds of thousands of susceptible victims.”
As Florida appears to be turning the corner from a coronavirus rampage that fueled record new infections, hospitalizations and deaths, its residents and leaders are surveying the damage left from more than 7,000 deaths reported since July Fourth and the scars inflicted by feuds over masks and vaccines.
New infections were averaging more than 22,000 a day in the last days of August but have fallen to about 19,000.
Yet recovery could prove fleeting: Holiday weekends such as Labor Day have acted as a tinderbox for earlier outbreaks, and late summer marks the return of students to college campuses.
DeSantis says Biden should follow Florida’s covid lead with record deaths nearing
In the wake of the summer surge, older Floridians cling to a sense of safety afforded by vaccines.