After staff members tested positive for the coronavirus, sections of former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, FL, have been partially closed. According to the Associated Press, service in the club’s dining room and beach club has been temporarily suspended. Several workers were also asked to quarantine. In an email to members, the club said it has “already undertaken all appropriate response measures in accordance with CDC guidance, including activating a thorough sanitizing and cleaning of any affected areas and club facilities.” The club promised to “continue our heightened environmental cleaning regimen.”
Even though Palm Beach County has an enforceable mask mandate, Mar-a-Lago visitors are frequently seen gathering indoors and outdoors without masks. Since Trump lost the 2020 presidential election, the club has hosted a flurry of events including a New Years Eve party where nearly 500 people dined and danced indoors while Vanilla Ice performed onstage. Shortly after the event, Palm Beach County issued a warning to Mar-a-Lago management and threatened to fine the private social club $15,000.
The outbreak at Mar-a-Lago among staff indicates the risks associated with working in the hospitality industry in a state with zero coronavirus-related restrictions. In September, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued an order that allows bars, restaurants, and gyms to operate at full capacity. He also limited the ability of local governments to enforce their own restrictions on businesses, writing, “cities and counties cannot force restaurants to operate at below 50% capacity.”
Despite the obvious burden it would place on workers, Gov. DeSantis did not follow up his order with any additional protections for the hospitality industry. As of March 15th, all individuals 60 and older, plus healthcare workers, teachers, and firefighters are eligible to receive a vaccine. Foodservice and hospitality workers are not, and there isn’t currently a timeline in place for vaccinating them. DeSantis’ decision to open restaurants without first vaccinating food service workers flies in the face of several CDC guidelines which recommend placing these employees in early vaccination groups. The coronavirus breakout at Mar-a-Lago illustrates what happens when the personal liberties of a few are prioritized over the health and safety of the essential workers forced to serve them.