The Air We Share

Guest Correspondence

BY TOM BARWIN SRQ DAILY SATURDAY PERSPECTIVES EDITION SATURDAY MAR 21, 2020

On Friday, March 13, Sarasota was likely the first city in the state to declare a local public health emergency. At that time, Gov. Ron DeSantis and State Public Health advisors had “strongly recommended” social gatherings in Florida be limited to less than 250 persons.

The governor’s request and our quick local response helped facilitate the timely shutdown of the Farmers Market, the County Fair, all special events and a dozen busy and popular performing arts operations in the city. By last Tuesday, St. Patrick's Day, the state had shut down all bars and nightclubs and restaurants were required to reduce their capacity by 50% and space tables at least six feet apart. The President also pivoted, and urged all social gatherings be restricted to less than ten people, and suggested gatherings just be avoided all together. And now, a day most thought would or could never happen, happened, when City and County officials in south Florida and along much of the gulf coast announced that most gulf coast beaches would be closed by this weekend. Wow!

What's next? Well, the first order of business is to get through this as healthy as we can, with the second order of business being making sure we have business to get back to when the threat passes. It does appear, that for now, the vast majority of people are listening and social gatherings, which risk further transmission of COVID-19, have come to a screeching halt. On premise food sale restaurants have been temporarily closed by the State, with several local favorites converting to pick up and delivery operations as encouraged by the Governor. Your loyalty can help them keep people working. Many businesses that do not feature group gatherings are also converting to virtual operations, i.e. online, telephone and by appointment-only operations. Office type businesses, like our local governments, remain assessible over the phone and through the internet. The new general rule, whether you need medical care, a pizza or your car or watch fixed, call first.

As always during our emergencies, a tip of the hat goes out to all those people and their families who continue to support our basic needs, even in this time of a public health emergency. We can't thank our neighbors enough, who continue to go to work in our grocery stores, in our clinics and hospitals, our first responders in police, fire and EMS, and our utility workers who keep our water, sewer, electricity and streets functioning, and our sanitation workers who continue to remove our trash like clockwork. This challenge, more than most, should clearly remind us, once again, just how interconnected and interdependent we are here and around the world.

The air we share can transmit a life-threatening virus. The care we share minimizes our losses and will restore our health. As the twin towers fell during 911, I recall commentators predicting how 911 was going to change our lives, and it did. It's early, and we have a way to go, but COVID-19 is also going to change our lives. This time, once we get through this, as we will, let’s hope and strive to make this crisis an opportunity to learn and respond with changes for the good. In Sarasota, we are already working on our comeback. Once this is over, I will look forward to seeing you around town.

Please feel free to email me at Thomas.barwin@sarasotafl.gov.

Tom Barwin is Sarasota City Manager.

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