It has been two weeks since I first tested positive for COVID-19. Since then, I have been quarantined in my home. It has forced me to lead our city remotely, separated me from my family and robbed me of the ability to do what I love most as mayor of Miami — closely interact with the residents.
Yet, despite this, the initial whirlwind of emotions — the anxiety, fear and confusion that hit me when I first tested positive — has now been mostly replaced with action, diligence and optimism.
As mayor of Miami, and only the second person to test positive in Miami-Dade County at this writing, I quickly recognized that being on the other side of this virus puts me in a unique position to help others when they need it most. Many may be asking: “Will we get through this?”
I’m here to tell you that we will.
The anxiety surrounding coronavirus stems from mystery and lack of information. That’s why I decided to chronicle my journey by posting daily video diaries on my social-media platforms. These videos have reduced residents’ angst, demystifying COVID-19 by showcasing my daily progress in real time and showing people what it’s like to live with the coronavirus. It has proven to be a powerful source of information and comfort for people who see this crisis as the dawning of doomsday.
Fortunately, I have experienced mild symptoms. Yet, this provide a false sense of security, especially for young and healthy asymptomatic individuals who unknowingly may be carrying COVID-19 and infecting others, particularly the elderly, our most vulnerable population.
This is not a time to party or congregate. It’s a time to buckle down. Our message is simple: If you live in Miami, stay home. If you’re visiting Miami, go home.
With foresight, we, as a city, took bold steps early on. Even before we had any confirmed cases, we were one of the first cities in the country to cancel large-scale events such as the Ultra Music Festival and Calle Ocho. Some say we acted prematurely. But we say we acted with conviction, knowing we were doing the right thing by our residents.
We didn’t stop there. We’re also one of the first cities in our community to issue a shelter-in-place order and the first city in Florida to roll out at-home testing for homebound seniors 65 and over. Miami continues to demonstrate staunch leadership, and other communities are following suit.
COVID-19 has introduced a new normal — a virtual world. As an innovative city, we’ve always pondered the idea of working remotely. But this outbreak has facilitated our evolution toward that in a hurry. In-person meetings have turned into video conferencing. What just a few weeks ago seemed like a future reality has become our current reality almost overnight — a social and professional practice that may just stick around well after this storm passes.
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Miami knows about storms all too well. Natural events such as hurricanes exposed our vulnerabilities to extreme weather, and we adapted by strengthening our infrastructure and building codes into the most resilient in the country. Now, for the first time, we’re realizing our true vulnerability to biological outbreaks, and we must adapt and reveal our resiliency once again.
If there’s one thing Miamians don’t do well, it’s social distancing. Yet, we’re being forced to adjust to this new normal, for now. We must practice social distancing and self-isolate with discipline. We must commit to, and even embrace these actions, as a means to an end — to return to normalcy as quickly as possible.
There is nothing positive about COVID-19. It has paralyzed our society, changed our way of life and shuttered businesses. If there is a silver lining, it’s that this is a moment of pause. Take this as an opportunity for introspection and compassion, and to reconnect with the simple things. This is an involuntary reminder of how much we depend on each other, to be grateful for the smallest moments and to cherish the beauty and bounty of opportunities our city provides.
If I’ve learned anything over the past few weeks, it’s how fortunate I am. I am now hoping to soon be cleared from quarantine by meeting the strictest CDC guidelines, which require me to test negative consecutively. Unfortunately, I re-tested positive earlier this week, but I am now awaiting results from Thursday’s re-test. Being released from quarantine isn’t just about me. It’s about giving our residents a sense of safety and confidence that this too shall pass.
Nobody is above this. We must band together to fight the coronavirus and protect what is fundamentally most important — our health and wellness. We’ve overcome adversity before. Let’s show the world that, together, we’re ready and willing to do it again.
Francis X. Suarez is mayor of the city of Miami.