The ongoing fight against COVID-19 has changed the fabric of our community. Our beaches and parks have closed. Restaurants and small businesses have drastically altered their operations. And keeping our distance meant saying an early farewell to the events and people that help make our economy tick.
As a community, these actions are proving successful. Safer-at-home orders have kept our most vulnerable populations safe, while easing of some regulations at the local and state level have allowed businesses to continue operations. By practicing social distancing and listening to local, state and federal healthcare leaders, we are flattening the curve.
While critical to the health and well-being of our community, these precautions have hammered our economy. About 70% of our membership have seen their revenues reduced dramatically, forcing them to make difficult choices about pay cuts, furloughs or layoffs.
As the voice of business in Collier County, we want the economy to reopen and stay open. In order for that to occur, we must take a measured and methodical approach while we get back to work. Move too quickly, and we risk a second surge in COVID-19 cases and another round of restrictive measures.
In Collier County, we pride ourselves as being of one of the healthiest communities in the world, and now, more than ever, we need to take steps to ensure we stay that way. With that in mind, we would encourage local and state leaders to consider the following:
We also believe this is an opportunity to consider what we want our future economy to look like. While many businesses have struggled during this crisis, others have experienced little impact on day-to-day operations. As we move forward, we must work together to diversify our economy to encourage growth in resilient industries, such as advanced manufacturing, financial services, information technology and healthcare.
Our community has changed, and we need to understand that for us to recover safely, we must take it slow. As tempting as it is to flip a switch and fully turn our economy back on, we appreciate that careful, incremental and deliberate steps are critical to our community’s decision to reopen – and more importantly, stay open.
_Michael Dalby is the president and CEO of the Greater Naples Chamber.
This editorial was originally published in the Naples Daily News on April 27.