“I’d rather die!”

The Governor of Florida just ordered a state-wide “Safer at Home” order, telling residents to stay home, except for “essential” trips outside.  But what is allowed and not allowed – and what people/authorities will do about it – is not clear.

The Extreme Case

Yesterday at our Wednesday tennis group (seven courts of doubles – with everyone observing the social gathering restrictions of staying apart), one of my friends said, “I’d rather die than stop playing tennis!”

While I personally don’t go to that extreme, I am pretty close.  If it wasn’t for my really major concern of NOT bringing anything back into the house to DeDe, I would say my sentiment is: I would rather risk catching the virus than stop playing tennis.

Where Do You Draw The Line?

My community of Pelican Bay immediately reacted by “closing the tennis courts”; but not mentioning the golf club!  The Governor’s order says grocery shopping and “recreational activities are allowed”; so what activities are safe and OK?

  • Going for a walk with your spouse?
  • Jogging by yourself or with someone?
  • Playing a round of golf by yourself?
  • Playing golf with someone but riding in separate carts?
  • Going on a tennis court alone to practice serves?
  • Having someone 70 feet away on the other side of the court returning those serves?
  • Or, going shopping in Publix with 200 other seniors?

Exercise IS Essential

I have exercised virtually every day of my life… even the day after my prostate cancer surgery… even the day OF my hip replacement surgery.  That is who I am.

In a previous dialogue on this site, one reader countered, “You NEED to go grocery shopping; but you don’t NEED to play tennis.”  Perhaps I do.

What do YOU think?

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23 thoughts on ““I’d rather die!”

  1. Pelican Bay immediately reacted by “closing the tennis courts”

    Same at my community VillageWalk Bonita Springs
    So…I am done for as far as the eye can see. Not happy, but will have to deal with it.

  2. This is verbatim from the Order…

    Section 3. Essential Activities

    A. For purposes of this Order and the conduct it limits, “essential activities” means and encompasses the following:

    Attending religious services conducted in churches, synagogues and houses ofworship; and

    Participating in recreational activities (consistent with social distancing guidelines) such as walking, biking, hiking, fishing, hunting, running, or swimming; and

    Taking care of pets; and

    Caring for or otherwise assisting a loved one or friend.

    Alan, without being too legalistic, “such as” gives some examples, but doesn’t say “only”. And, it doesn’t say “golf”, but the Florida golf courses are remaining open. It is my understanding that my Pelican Bay courts were closed because the County closed their courts (but not the golf courses).Thanks. George

  3. It’s not just that you could die. It’s not just that you could catch it. It’s also that you could catch it and while you remain unaware and asymptomatic, you could pass it to DeDe or me.
    It’s the transmission that needs to be stopped. A letter to the Sarasota Herald last week said “Our grandfathers were sent to Europe and the South Pacific to fight and maybe die. We are asked to sit on the couch and watch TV.”
    And yes, congregating in church is more dangerous.

    Rick, as i wrote, my fear is bringing it home. thanks, george

  4. George, as you may remember, I have endured, played thru tremendous pain, and finally succumbed to three major surgeries all to continue playing tennis until I can no longer walk on the court and hit a ball. And just when I thought “it was safe to go outside” I mean, get back to playing, it happened.
    My point is, this is the most serious event to happen in modern history to the world. And it is not about you, me or our teammates and players. It is about all of us. Sure, I want to go out and play singles, doubles on my Palm Beach courts. But what message does that send to others? They’re playing why can’t I? They’re playing why can’t I go to the beach?
    George, we are all in this together not just as individuals but for us all. While I am in pretty good shape for 67, I have had the aforementioned major surgeries one of which is still healing. If I played doubles with you and you touch by accident something along the way and however gave it to me by accident, then what? Would I get sick? Would I . . .
    I live for tennis. I want to live to play another day.

    David, i hear you. thanks, george

  5. The county put locks on the tennis courts but said it was ok for 10 people to go out on a boat! I do not want to get sick or make anyone else sick but 4 guys on a tennis court, how far apart?, really

    A friend has a court in his yard and let a couple of people play, I wonder if someone would report him.
    I am like you George, I have to do some exercise every day for an hour or more. I guess it means biking on my own or kayaking

    Peter, i had the same vision of the fisherman vs the tennis players! I guess it shows that both the fishing and golfing lobbies are more powerful than the tennis lobby. thanks, george.

  6. We all should be afraid of bringing it home. Otherwise we’re being too selfish. My wife has a compromised immune system because she had breast cancer, so I don’t play and exercise in other ways.

  7. The Florida order appears to be as vague as existing orders in a Pennsylvania and New Jersey regarding recreational activities. On the one hand, your state’s order purports to allow, and certainly does not discourage, recreation. Further, it uses the words “such as” and then provides a list of specific outdoor activities that it suggests would be allowed. But if you look carefully at that list, ALL of the activities are of a nature that they are individual in nature. They are not team or social activities. They are things that people usually do in isolation or, if they do them with others at all, they are only done with a few other people. Plus, they are not done in ways where there are generally potential vectors by which virus from one person can potentially be picked up by someone else due to the activity – like on a tennis ball.

    But may I suggest a different philosophy? Stop thinking like someone who is looking to push the envelope and go up the the edge on what you think you can and cannot get away with. You are not in this alone. We ALL are making sacrifices. And you have your wife to be responsible for, but you also have obligations to society as a whole – just like everyone else does.

    Instead, manage your affairs in the most socially responsible manner as you can. If there is a theoretical risk of transmission from one particular kind of activity – either by your getting the disease or, equally as important, your possibly becoming a transmitter of the disease yourself (as could occur if you happened to contract the virus but are one of the 25% who are asymptomatic) – manage your activities not so much based on what you think you can get away with but more based on what is socially responsible.

    In short, don’t think only of yourself. Try to look at it more from the big picture. Your Governor waited way too long to issue any order, and it appears a lot of Florida is not aware of how severe this crisis has become on other places (like New York and New Jersey). Because of Florida’s delays there is a real chance that things in your state could get even worse in short order. Florida is filled with vulnerable old people. Therefore, I would argue that each and every resident of Florida owes an obligation to their peers not just to follow the letter of the law but to go even farther not to make the problem worse.

    Marty, and that is why anyone coming from your area in the north east is stopped at the Florida border and told to self quarantine for 14 days! thanks, george

  8. Is leprosy the answer?
    Back 100+ years ago, people used to segregate those with leprosy in colonies by themselves for fear of catching the disease. Perhaps that is what should happen to die hard tennis players … they (we) get segregated in a community (with tennis courts, of course) and someone drop ships in food and beer till this is all over!

  9. Two thoughts:

    1.) I like David’s comment, “I want to live to play another day”.

    2.) When is that beer shipment arriving?!

  10. Hi George & greetings from (almost total lockdown) across the Pond (Great Britain).
    I read that those people who survived the Great Plague of London in 1665 did so because they stayed indoors in their homes.
    Stay safe & stay well George, nothing else matters.

    Howard, good to hear from you and that you are surviving this! george

  11. Marty Judge said almost all of what I was going to mention (smart man!). George, I know you love tennis, and I feel bad for you, but this is a war we’re fighting … with a monstrous, invisible enemy! Because the US was behind by 2 months in fighting this (don’t get me started on politics ), the pandemic has become more dire. Even if you guys are using your own tennis balls, you are touching surfaces which can transmit the virus to others. I stopped playing 2 weeks ago. Soon after that, they closed our public courts where I play with my guys. We are all missing our tennis games!!! Luckily, for me, I’m in my studio most of the day. I just got home from foraging for food, and yes, I wore gloves & a mask! As Leo has a compromised immune system, I’m taking a lot of precautions. So, my friend, be smart & safe. p.s. I’d hate to have to drive the 2 hours to Naples for your funeral … oh, wait! … there wouldn’t be one … social distancing!

    Caroline, i hear you and the others; but i do not touch ANYTHING at the tennis court, put my bag ten feet from the change over table, and stay six feet from my opponent. Why is that not as safe as going for a walk or job? thanks for caring (and you are surely invited to my funeral!). george

  12. p.p.s. A friend of mine’s sister is a LifeFlight helicopter nurse in PA. She’s been on the front lines of this pandemic. She just got out of the hospital (to make way for another patient), and is recuperating at home…still seriously ill. This has been the first case hitting home for me. Unfortunately, with all of the infighting between the states & govt. for life-saving supplies for the healthcare workers, there have been critical shortages. Remember, if our frontline warriors get sick, it doesn’t matter how many ventilators we finally get, if there are no medical professionals to operate them. We’ll be SOL. In the greater scheme of things, not playing tennis is a small price to pay to help each other to stay healthy!

  13. Unfortunately I had to head north much earlier than we had originally planned. Being in New England for a few weeks now it is my observation that the people in the Northeast are taking this pandemic much more seriously than those in the Southeast. Even though roads, towns, and cities are sparsely populated and people are hunkering down in their homes, the virus is still spreading. In fact, it is a strong possibility that the US will experience more deaths from this virus than any other country in the world. Why is that? One possible reason is that we, not just our leadership but also ordinary citizens, were slow in reacting to taking the necessary steps to keep this virus from getting out of hand. Everyone needs to do his/her part for the common good. Nobody is asking any of us to stop playing tennis. Instead, we are being asked to hit the pause button for a few months – for the greater common good. As Rick mentioned, we are not being asked to go fight a war, instead we are being asked to separate and stay at home as much as possible. Let’s think long term and take the necessary steps now so that we can all be together in the future. Be well and stay healthy.

    Bob, good to hear from you. Stay well. george

  14. Pelican Marsh took their their nets down 3 wks. ago. I have been hitting w/o a net since with a friend. ( singles only ) We both bring new balls and I do not touch his # 1’s and he does not touch my # 3’s. Isn’t as much fun as with the net , but you have a good idea of where the net should be. The only thing that’s somewhat difficult is volleying at net area. The net stops those balls that are too short normally , so that is helpful – not so with no net. You can practice/hit all the other shots with no problem. Are able to get as much exercise as you want and that’s what most of us want. Give it a try. After hitting we thank each other and set up next hitting session…

    Paul, good idea! thanks, george

  15. It has all been said above. It isn’t if one can stay apart on the tennis court. It isn’t about playing with separate balls. It isn’t about any of that.
    It is about adhering to what we’ve been asked to do to stop the spread. That is the key issue.
    As my brother says, one can rationalize anything they want the outcome to be. The outcome for the country and the world is to stop the spread. We’ve been told that by many now, stay close to home and limit contact except for store and critical areas of our life.
    And………….whether one is as careful as can be……………is it worth spreading the virus to those who are adhering to the guidelines outlined for a safer community and world.

  16. not closing the golf courses- hmmm… who has an interest in keeping golf courses open in FL?? And Bonnie and I haven’t left the house without masks for over 2 weeks, even walking outside. Today the news is that the virus MAY be spread by aerosol, like measles, so nobody knows where you’re getting it from, perhaps walking through a cloud of it from someone who was there earlier. Apparently 80% of the people who go on respirators DIE! If asymptomatic people are spreading the disease, EVERYONE should get tested. Boasting about 1 million people being tested weeks into the pandemic out of a population of 300+ million is a joke. The only people being tested here in Illinois (and elsewhere I assume because of the overloading) are those who already have symptoms that are medium to severe

  17. This is fun, Ill play this morbid-catchy-title game… my title is “The Ghost of Corona Future”.

    Pretend it Is 2+ years in the future (near your 80th birthday) and you are writing your “I’d rather die” diary entry looking back at this past week, March 29th. Which scenario would you rather write as an entry?

    Happy scenario A where:
    – Nick, a former employee of yours, died from the virus at age 52 in Tampa on March 27th. He was only 2 years older than your sons.
    – Only “several” friends / friend of family members died of the virus along with only a few tens of thousands of other Americans , not unlike the flu every year
    – You continued to play tennis every day because you “needed it” along with your buddies

    Not happy scenario B where
    – Nick, a former employee of yours, died from the virus at age 52 in Tampa on March 27th. He was only 2 years older than your sons.
    – Lots and lots and lots of close people to you died of the virus along with a few hundred thousand other Americans.
    – You didn’t continue to play tennis every day because you “needed it” along with your buddies

    Only one item changed above but the entire story was different. In Corona Future 2022 will a few weeks of tennis *today* matter a little or a lot? And to you or your family? Seriously? Stop.

    Jeremy, i hear you. Love and thanks.

  18. What I cannot rationalize is I went to the Publix grocery store a couple of days ago. The parking lot was full at the special time of 7:00am with senior’s cars. It was difficult, if not impossible, to maintain ‘social distance’ in the aisles. A member of staff wiped the handle of the cart with a cloth dipped in soapy water. At the checkout, I managed to stay a cart’s length and a half from the person in front and behind me.. but trying to keep 6ft from the checkout lady and the bagging gent was impossible and they were not wearing the gloves I was. All of the goods I purchased were handled by both the checkout lady and the bagger gent.
    In the store, I was closer to people many more times than I would have been on a tennis court using George’s Rules.
    I do worry though, about perception. If I travel to a tennis court, neighbors see me leave home, people see my car on the road and people would see me playing… and would they understand? I doubt it.
    Born a Brit, I don’t understand many things about the current lopsided governance.
    Golf courses open? Gun stores classed as essential businesses and allowed to stay open for customers. (Perhaps they’ll kill the virus!).
    Seems like public health is largely being left to the public.
    Where does social responsibility start and stop?

    Allan, i had the same, exact concerns going thru Publix myself! Much more dangerous than two guys on a tennis court 70 apart. Thanks, george

  19. Well said Howie. I hope the time is not too far away where we will ALL be back on the court as friends, partners, and competitors.
    Fortunately here in SW Florida there are numerous options for grocery delivery, Publix, Aldi, Costco, and more. Therefore, the argument for tennis vs Publix is invalid.
    And regarding Wednesday tennis, I’ve been told there were 32 players this week. If a few where members of the Strand, they pay nothing, but the other 28 or so players need to pay. Do you all stand 6 feet from George and throw the money to him? Does he ever need to make change? How many different people do you think may have touched that money over the last week? Does your car ever need gas to get to your various tennis outings? Do you strings ever break? Community spread is possible from the money, the gas pumps, and the racquet stringers.
    Mary and I will continue our self isolation for our own benefit and the benefit to the community.

    George, I wasn’t joking when I said I feared going to Publix more than playing tennis; so I took your advice and put in a delivery order with them this afternoon.
    And our groceries just arrived!
    P.S. we did wipe down every package with a disinfectant cloth! So, thanks for the good advice. george

  20. George, two quick comments:
    1) If your concern is that you want to play tennis and want to exercise, you can play with one person on each side of the net, not two. Perhaps you can just rally if you don’t want to play a match, or practice some strokes, etc. The 6 foot rule is not based on hard science, and common sense indicates that risk of transmission is lowered with one person on each side.
    2) Your friend may say he’d rather die, a sentiment I certainly understand, but that is not an adequate excuse. Is he also willing to commit himself to not using the resources that are needed to take care of him if he does get sick? If he is not willing to do that, he is risking harming others. Hospitals are running out of critical supplies to take care of COVID patients, not just ventilators, but medicines that open the airways and drugs to keep people relaxed while on ventilators, among other things. These items are now in the rationing stage in some hospitals; some people who need these supplies will not be able to receive them.

    Phil, good to hear from you. Yes, i would be comfortable hitting singles and not coming near my opponent (and wearing a glove on the hand that touches the tennis balls). Thanks, george

  21. I used to be the “young” guy…. don’t know if I’m still considered that ….
    you don’t want this virus … even for those in good shape … this nasty little invisible thing could mess you up for years to come . I was fortunate enough to read some smart people online and able to read European newspapers months ago that created one clear picture amongst all the co founding data sets and points …. this thing needs us to spread so distancing is a game changer from a percentage side of things .. no different than washing hands …. we owe it to one another to so this simple thing…… it’s quite ironic actually …. a very very simple act we can do to help one another during uncertain times … and yet we struggle …

    Marc, compared to us, you still are the young guy! Thanks, and stay well. george

  22. George, Hi to all —Love the current saying of the week… we may end up as great cooks or supreme drunkards after the imposed quarantine… !
    Seriously, though, I wanted, to revisit this critically important issue on safety and tennis safety with Covid 19 and comment again on why this virus is so dangerous and why we are in a very precarious period.

    I sent out to some of my tennis buddies in Northern California a week or so before the recent USTA stated policy of essentially ” no tennis for now, while realizing we love the game” and before Northern California issued an updated, more strict directive late in the week, affecting all counties and 7 million people (!): besides sheltering at home— now all parks, playgrounds, fields, courts( b-ball and tennis) are closed; no playing a game with a ball between two are more people unless in the same household is allowed.
    Draconian some might think…but here is email below I sent to some diehard ( no pun intended) tennis devotees previously.
    Staying safe now is the most important thing you can do for yourself and family and loved ones perhaps in your entire lifetime.

    To my tennis buddies:

    « Surface contact , including court surfaces, while definitely posing risks of contagion, is not main risk.
    Viral particles being spread in the air— and there is no magic barrier at 6-10 feet— would be main concern for possible spread, either in air where particles can last for hours or by aerosol spread with sneeze or cough or shaking of garments, or, while unlikely, maybe even theoretically brushing and hitting the ball…or someone parking near you getting out of car, maybe with active children, etc.
    Social distancing helps but does not 100 percent eliminate risk.
    Think of Lebron James pre- game routine—when he sends up a cloud of rosin dust—and imagine where the rosin dust would go if there were a small fan near him. You may have experienced drifting particles in using fertilizer or sprays in your garden if there is even a mild breeze.
    Covid 19 is contacted not through the skin but by its incredibly “sticky” surface adhering to mucous membranes- in your eye, nose, or oropharyx.

    Prescient legislators have directed shelter in place early since it does eliminate possible contact spread except from family members or loved ones living with you.
    Worrisome is fact that more than half of people testing positive have no symptoms and that asymptomatic people are “spreaders”.

    Sheltering in place protects our community big time since it breaks early exponential spread.
    Covid 19 is thought to possibly have a spread factor of 2 -3 or maybe even >4 – so one case could on average lead to 4; 4 to 16; 16 to 64; 64 to 256; 256 to 1024 in about 4-5 weeks!

    You may know all these facts but hopefully will reflect again on their implications.
    Really think about this: in a sense, curtailing one case now can save potentially hundreds or more of other cases.

    If we do sheltering and not just distancing we have a much better chance of getting through this without seeing a really high peak of illness with all the potential serious harm that entails.

    I studied epidemiology and pandemic scenarios 50 years ago at the Harvard School of Public Health.
    This pandemic is a nightmare come true.
    Covid 19 is the real deal and this is no drill.

    Unfortunately things will get much, much worse.
    We are not even at peak— Kaiser Hospital in Santa Clara already has most of its patients with Coronavirus complications.

    I am optimistic we will get through this— but there will still be a long tail of cases and most likely some recurrent waves of infection in the longer term.
    There is no treatment and any antiviral medicine touted or developed probably, as tends to be the case with all antivirals, will not work well ( as antibiotics can with bacterial infections) since the virus lives within the body’s cells and antivirals can often be toxic to our own cells.
    Vaccine will help a lot we should have an effective next year and herd immunity will also increase and eventually help.

    And last reminder- us oldies but goodies are at higher risk.

    Love all you guys!
    I love tennis, too, but you are all more important than tennis…

    Be optimistic but do not have optimism bias…Be super- vigilant and stay safe! »

    — Chuck

    Charles Hearey MD MPH

  23. From USTA 4/3/20:

    USTA Statement on play during pandemic.

    USTA Statement on Safety of Playing Tennis During the COVID-19 Virus Pandemic

    The COVID-19 pandemic is creating challenges for everyone across the globe. American tennis players are asking for guidance regarding the safety of playing tennis, especially when social distancing and space sharing issues are now paramount.

    Based on the recommendations of the USTA COVID-19 Advisory Group, the USTA believes that it is in the best interest of society to take a collective pause from playing the sport we love.

    Although there are no specific studies on tennis and COVID-19, medical advisors believe there is the possibility that the virus responsible for COVID-19 could be transmitted through common sharing and handling of tennis balls, gate handles, benches, net posts, and even court surfaces.

    As a result of this, the USTA asks that as tennis players we need to be patient in our return to the courts and consider how our decisions will not only affect ourselves, but how our decisions can impact our broader communities. In the meantime, we encourage everyone to stay active and healthy with at home exercise and creative “tennis at home” variations. We look forward to our return to tennis in a safe manner and will provide updates as new information becomes available. By practicing all the recommended guidelines presently put forth by our medical experts, that return will happen in the soonest possible timeframe.

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