On the night of Jan. 9 as I drove home from work, having finished the evening shift, I was somewhat surprised to see a well-known private club open with parking lots near full capacity. Many other businesses were equally thriving at this wee hour of the morning.

Thoughts brought me back to the 1980s when many continued with high-risk behaviors at bars, bathhouses, and nightclubs even as the dangers of a new epidemic were starting to become known. Back then as well as now, all the warning bells were going off. Reports of the increase in numbers becoming infected, the increase in the death count, increase in transmission and yet the band played on … with many who did not heed the warnings, who did not want to hear the dire news or to stop having so much fun.  

Looks like the band is still playing today as many people all across the nation are casting aside similar warnings while heading out and about, going to crowded bars, going to the gym, to social events and nightclubs. Not sure how much social distancing and mask-wearing is going on at such clubs, I would think not much, if any. Recent photos in the Sun Sentinel showing packed nightclubs during New Year’s weekend along Las Olas, South Beach, Wilton Drive and other regional night spots show the extent of the many who are not engaging in a safe activity.  

Back when I was a younger lad, social distancing was not what I was looking to do when frequenting such establishments and wearing a surgical mask in a nightclub would have been viewed as having some strange sexual fetish. Preferred masks back then were of the leather or rubber variety.  

All joking aside, as infection rates continue to rise drastically here in Florida and across the nation, a surgical mask is a must-wear item in the struggle against this pandemic and for the need to protect others as well as ourselves.  

The recent failure to roll out a strategic vaccination plan has left many first responders, seniors and many of us frustrated with no idea of when we might be able to receive the much-needed vaccine. Still months away from mass vaccinations, we need to be ever more concerned about the rising infection rates. Going out for a night of fun might have to wait a little bit longer. Bringing the virus into your home, your workplace, or to social gatherings should be a major concern for us all. Locally, many are still becoming seriously ill and dying from this pandemic. We would like to think that the worst is behind us, but I fear what lies ahead in the coming months.  

Hopefully the new administration taking over in Washington next week will start our nation down a different path, one that is ready to deal with this pandemic scientifically and honestly, unlike the failures of the outgoing administration.  

A national strategy is not too much to expect from our government instead of the ramblings of a president who told us to inject bleach or to ingest Lysol disinfectant. As we wait for the cavalry to arrive in just the nick of time, we must continue to follow CDC guidelines, social distance, and wear our masks.  

Discussions at this week’s City Commission meeting validated the rising surge locally here in Wilton Manors as well as throughout Florida and the nation. While our governor, Ron DeSantis, pretends that all is wonderful and all should return to life as usual, many are still suffering, becoming infected, spreading the virus and yes, dying in crowded hospitals. With Florida’s lax restrictions due to the governor’s executive orders limiting local government control and as people continue to visit Florida from colder climates with snowbirds arriving by full flights at area airports, it will not be long till a new variant strain of the coronavirus will be identified here in our community as already seen in places such as California and Colorado.  

Islanders, now is not the time to let our guard down, we must become even more diligent and focused. We need to wear our masks, practice social distancing, take precautions and look to get vaccinated as additional supplies become available.   

We have been through so much this past year; we need to be patient and we need to stay safe. By continuing our efforts to keep ourselves, our neighbors, our co-workers and our families safe, we ensure that life in our Island City will continue to be just better here…

Sal Torre has been a columnist for the Wilton Manors Gazette since its inception. Sal has served on the Wilton Drive Task Force, Budget Review Advisory Board, and Charter Review Board, among others. Sal is currently President of the Westside Association of Wilton Manors and Secretary for the Friend of the Wilton Manors Library. He is employed with Broward County in the Human Services Division.