Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Leu Gardens Crowds: Business as Usual

In 2017, Hurricane Irma blew through Central Florida blowing down a tree that damaged the roof of this historic Leu Garden Museum. The upper floors were water damaged. The historic museum has been closed for the past three years for restoration and repairs. At this time, there is no reopen date. The gardens however are open for business as usual.

While restaurants, bars, beaches, and Florida State Parks have been shut down because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the City of Orlando has for some reason left Harry P. Leu Gardens open. The city said it will close all city-owned and operated playgrounds and the swan boats at Lake Eola Park at 5 p.m. Monday 3/23/2020 until further notice, but Leu Gardens continues to draw big crowds. Last weekend 400 to 500 people crushed into the gardens each day to escape cabin fever. The gardens have replaced Orlando's sports stadiums for people to crowd together.

Leu Gardens volunteers and staff are working hard to wipe down the surfaces in the gift shop and entry hall but it is hard to keep up. It seems extreme to expect Garden staff to risk their lives in the face of a pandemic for the City of Orlando. Things might not be so bad if people were practicing social distancing, but they are not. As one expert said, “If it were possible to wave a magic wand and make all Americans freeze in place for 14 days while sitting six feet apart, epidemiologists say, the whole epidemic would sputter to a halt.” It is human nature to want to hug and shake hands to greet friends, or to hold each other tight when grieving a loss.

“Our outdoor facilities, such as our city parks, Leu Gardens and Dubsdread Golf Course are open to the public, but residents must follow necessary social distancing measures while there,” said Karyn Barber, a city spokeswoman. “We encourage residents to use these facilities responsibly to get fresh air and exercise, which are important for physical and mental health always, but especially during this uncertain time.” I am left wondering, who enforces responsible social distancing? Does this responsibility fall on Leu Gardens staff?

Florida State Governor Ron DeSantis wants to avoid a state-wide lock down leaving local governments to decide what should close and what should remain open. DeSantis still believes targeting the counties hardest hit by the Covid-19 for the most extreme measures is the preferable path.

The Florida Department of Health said Monday 3/23/2020 that there are now 1,171 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Florida with 14 deaths. I put 14 caskets in my sketch in their honor. Stay home, Stay safe.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at analogartistdigitalworld@gmail.com

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