It’s good to see signs of life in our town. People on the beach, strolling through Times Square, dining at outdoor tables.
Island businesses have been closed for 6-8 weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Between state, county and town regulations, combined with personal concern for employees, customers and the community, business owners have faced a very difficult two months. They’ve worried about their employees, their own financial solvency and the future of their business. All valid concerns and the reason so many have opened their businesses this week after Governor DeSantis allowed limited opening of restaurants for outdoor seating following social distancing rules and limited indoor seating on May 4. Bars remain closed.
As happy as we are for Island businesses, it’s also a bit stressful.
It’s important to recognize that not everyone is ready to jump on the back-to-normal bandwagon. Some people continue to hold reservations about the timing on reopening of the state. Some, including the vulnerable population, defined as those over 65 and those with underlying conditions, have been advised to continue to stay at home to protect their health. Everyone has been advised to wear a mask in conditions where social distancing can’t be guaranteed.
Some will continue to stay home. So will those who are in close contact with the vulnerable, in order to protect them.
As my uncle once said, “There’s room in this old world for everybody.” Room for the crowded beach-goers and for the stay-at-home-a-little-longer crowd. Room for the dining out folks and for the carryout crowd. We’re going to be a hybrid community for a while and that’s ok.
Most of the restaurants that have reopened, continue to offer carryout or delivery. Some businesses have chosen to wait a bit before reopening. It’s all good.
In our relief at the signs of life on the beach once more, we should not ignore the state and county status of the COVID-19 pandemic. It hasn’t gone away. In fact, some data suggests that the downward trend of new cases has stalled a bit in the county. There is, finally, better access to testing in Lee County. Governor DeSantis announced Wednesday the rollout of antibody testing in the state. Antibody testing will tell who has already had the virus and presumably has some immunity to reinfection, though that hasn’t been proven yet. Antibody testing will also reveal how many people have actually had the virus but who may not have had symptoms or did not have access to testing.
With testing and data being key to managing the reopening of the state, the increased testing availability is very good news.
Most of our elected officials are following that information and residents should too. The Florida Department of Health provides a dashboard at bit.ly/isp4123 that is updated each day at 11am. Follow the state, county and even our own zip code data.
Fort Myers Beach is famously hospitable. Let’s be sure we continue that hospitality as we reopen, welcoming those willing to come out and participate as well as those who have reason to hesitate. They are all crucial to our success as a community.