HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, January 2, 2021 — Ever since Gulfstream’s Championship Meet began with the Claiming Crown program on December 4, my gaze was fixed on January 1, the day all babies turn three.
This always has been my time to spring forward into a personal favorite pastime, taking baby steps on the road to the Triple Crown.
As for Saturday’s feature, I’ve never missed a running of the Mucho Macho Man Stakes, including its first in 2011 when the prolific race horse now sire Uncle Mo, took the inaugural. No, I never missed renewal, until yesterday.
Because you can’t be too careful living in a state whose chief executive cares nothing about the life of the citizens. It’s not that Governor Ron DeSantis has failed to lead. That would be bad enough. Rather, DeSantis has proven himself to be the antithesis of leadership.
Covid is everywhere in America, especially the Sunshine State, which set a record of 75,000 positive cases on New Year’s Eve, eclipsing the previous standard established the day before.
I’ve been vaccinated thrice but Omicron is persistent. Due to pre-morbidities, I have been, and remain, cautious beyond words.
Due largely to the Governor’s abdication of responsibility, only three of every five Floridians are vaccinated. The autocratic leader, known to the Twitterverse as “DeathSantis,” has not simply been absent. His anti-science stance has resulted in needless death and a health-care provider shortage.
He was AWOL almost two weeks until he made a New Year’s Eve speech made to an Evangelical audience, even as the Omicron variant continued leaping from host to host. Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, from conservative friendly North Florida, called DeSantis out on his Cruz-modeled disappearance.
Gulfstream is my local track. It’s what I know and fans who are thinking about going to the races should know what I know. Despite the existing precautions in place, several people I know have tested positive. Why should Gulfstream be different from any other place people gather in Florida?
In early 2020, Gulfstream Park put stringent health measures in place based on CDC guidance. The track was closed to the public. The track was being good citizens who protected its customers. Only horsemen and related track personnel were allowed on the grounds.
My media credentials did not allow access to the Gulfstream Park backstretch. Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training facility 25 miles to the north in Boynton Beach, was also off limits to media. For any racetracker, early-day backside visits are the best part of a racing day.
Gulfstream Park and Tampa Bay Downs, following mask and distancing mandates, kept the Thoroughbred industry alive while almost all major sports, including the rest of the country’s major tracks, were shut down. Vaccines were still in their infancy and had not yet been politically weaponized.
On my last visit I observed something very disconcerting. No one seated in the simulcast area took social distancing seriously, and virtually every other horseplayer was mask-less, even if social distancing should exist in all enclosed areas. Lack of leadership certainly has led to selfish, mindless behavior.
Some well healed players I know buy packages at the celebrated Christine Lee’s, no longer on track but in the Gulfstream Park Village restaurant adjacent to the walking ring. Two players I’m aware of there have tested positive.
This recent phenomenon first surfaced at South Florida casinos, including the glitzy Hard Rock, as was reported in local media. The surmise is that Gulfstream management felt economic pressure to compete for the gambling dollar. Neither did it doesn’t want to run afoul of state government.
There are many examples of DeSantis’ autocratic policy, such as paying a $5,000 bonus to police officers fed up with vaccine mandates or were guilty of misconduct in other states.
Last year, DeSantis hired a new Surgeon General, Dr. Joseph Ladapo, who believes that “practicing good health” can stave off Covid infection, and that schools imposing mask mandates were “rogues.”
In addition, private employer vaccine mandates were prohibited; employees can choose from numerous exemptions; employers must cover the cost of testing and PPE exemptions; those who violate employee health protections would be fined–$10,000 per employee of small businesses and $50,000 per employee for medium and large companies.
That’s not all: Educational institutions may not require students to be vaccinated. School districts may not have school face-mask policies. School districts may not quarantine healthy students, and students and parents may sue violating school districts to recover costs and attorney’s fees.
Explained DeSantis Friday night: “Nobody should lose their job due to heavy-handed COVID mandates and we had a responsibility to protect the livelihoods of the people of Florida.” With this kind, it’s always the benjamins, never people’s lives.
Gulfstream did not create the situation it’s forced to deal with now. It’s only need is to follow the state’s lead. And therein lies the problem.