What it's like to dine out in Florida during the Delta variant

Carlos Hernandez

Who is sick of cooking? I sure am. So - I decided to dine out in Florida during a pandemic. Florida has passed rules that ban masks and vaccine mandates in counties and even in schools so dining out is quite the experience nowadays.

COVID-19 is surging to record new levels in Florida as the Delta variant rages.CDC

Servers are not wearing masks in restaurants but they will assure you that they are vaccinated if you look concerned. Most customers are voluntarily sitting inside, most without any masks on, despite the fact that there is a nearly 20% 7-day positivity rate in the state which means uncontrolled spread of COVID-19. I won’t be eating inside. In fact, I was the only diner sitting outside in this restaurant with nearly 100 seats outside.

For reference, the percentage the county was targeting to lift mask mandates in prior surges was only 5% and the Delta variant can actually infect people who are fully vaccinated as well, although your odds are better. Over 16,000 people are currently hospitalized throughout the state and deaths are climbing nearly every week. Yet - the most interesting part is that the pandemic behavior of Floridians has not shifted. Florida continues to be Florida.

Outdoor dining has become more common during the pandemic.Pixabay

My waitress is attentive, quickly bringing beer and burgers without much of a wait at all. There is hand sanitizer close by if needed. The burger is well-made and unlike anything I remotely feel like cooking at home. There is certainly something about sipping a cold beer after a long day working in the middle of what should be a cause for concern for people.

Sitting outside in Florida is it’s own experience. The Sunshine State is actually quite stormy, so watch out for lightning bolts and rain. When it’s not raining, it’s so hot that you question the desire to try and enjoy the tropical weather. In fact, before the pandemic I hardly ever dined outside at all.

Not what you want in your food.Darren Hughes

Then there’s the natural elements. Flies, wasps, mosquitoes, ants, and bees, Florida has them all. Most restaurants try their best to deal with this, but to be quite honest - it’s a losing battle in the outdoors. Each bite I’m swatting away a fly or watching a nest building in the corner of it. At least, it’s not lovebug season, I think to myself.

I quickly close my check and move on from what sounded like a good idea initially.

On second thought, maybe I’ll just eat at home next time after all.

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I am a writer who covers a number of topics from food to politics and everything in between. Contact: carloshernandesu@gmail.com

Tampa, FL

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