Rebuilding America: Editorial: We have to reopen, rebuild Florida together
This is the hard part.
It shouldn't be so, but it is.
Few would have thought, as Florida pushes ahead with reopening, and eventually rebuilding our coronavirus-ravaged economy, that one of the biggest impediments would be ourselves.
Because this is the point, after three months of daily sacrifice, where we should all be buying into the now all-too-familiar mantra: We are all in this together.
Instead, that motto is being met with the cynical question: Are we really?
The answer is a simple, yes. And we need to act like it.
Through self-imposed and government-ordered quarantines, we've already suffered much together. Shuttering our businesses. Emptying our school and college campuses. And mourning nearly 2,500 of our family and friends dead from COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
With enviable drive and resilience, Floridians from Pensacola to Palm Beach weathered it all. Largely because we all believed that we were in this together. That, no matter who we were, or where or how we lived, we were all at some degree of risk. And we were all willing to upend our lives to beat back the coronavirus.
Yes, South Florida — Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties — has suffered the brunt of the virus damage. Yes, our nursing homes and assisted living facilities offered up a plethora of petri dishes for virus spread. Yes, our tourism-dependent economy made our jobs particularly vulnerable.
Still, we somehow managed to lean on one another because we believed that we were all suffering the same fate. That is, until we didn't.
On the way to reopening our state and returning to some semblance of normalcy we somehow lost that unity.
As we looked to reopen, we allowed a different message to come between us. The unity built around "staying safe" became fractured as fear of lost jobs and golf rounds replaced fear of spreading a killer virus to our neighbors. Worse, we stopped talking and started shouting, making it nearly impossible to bridge the rhetorical gap.
This division can't continue; not with a recent national survey telling us 83% of Americans are still wary that reopening too soon will lead to additional infections. Not with that same poll telling us that support for public health restrictions imposed to control the virus's spread is no longer overwhelming.
As one survey participant said: "Oh, I'd like to get my hair and nails done. It's one of those little pleasures you take for granted. But I'm just going to suck it up. It's not worth the risk."
Making the reopening and rebuilding of our state about freedom versus public health is a false choice. One foisted on us by partisans more interested in their own selfish agendas than the public good. Don’t listen to them.
We all want to return to our beautiful beaches and parks. To give tired parents a break. To visit a restaurant or bar. To put our arms around a loved one that we've missed.
But no amount of yearning will make the virus disappear — not, at least, until a successful vaccine is developed. The truth is, Florida needs to embrace both our physical and economic health to navigate a lengthy path to a new normal. Masks in public places and generous amounts of hand sanitizer may be with us for a very long time.
Our economy is resilient, our businesses resourceful. Our new normal may not require much adjustment for building construction, but the same can't be said for our prodigious real estate sales industry. Farming operations won't have to change much in the fields, but packing houses have issues. While tourist attractions can spread crowds out more than they used to, hotels may have to monitor their patrons’ comings and goings more closely than before. And cleanliness, cleanliness, cleanliness.
We need to reopen, but together, in a manner that's safe, smart — and slow, if need be.
This doesn't have to be so hard.
This story originally published to palmbeachpost.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the USA TODAY Network - Florida.