Those who don’t take New Normal seriously add to our pain
A team appointed by Miami-Dade County to be economic slump-busters has a huge chore in pointing the way to economic recovery just as Covid-19 totals are soaring statewide.
We obviously opened up too soon, but even more importantly with too little public regard for the health rules of government and common sense.
Again closing beaches over the Independence Day period is painful but wise – just look at behavior on beaches, where masks are few and social distancing forgotten. Gatherings of mostly young people paying little heed to the virus have resulted in far more people in their 20s and 30s contracting it and spreading it.
The same thing happened in most of the state after bars reopened. Thankfully, bars in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach never reopened, so they didn’t have to close last week as state virus totals passed 9,000 new cases a day.
We are painfully familiar with what’s happening and the daily barrage of cold statistics. In this case, familiarity with the numbers seems to breed contempt in some of our neighbors for the consequences to themselves and others. So, last week’s seven-day total of new cases became a full third of all reported for the virus to date.
Those who ignore the rules don’t just harm themselves: they speed the spread of Covid-19 through society. In early days of the pandemic experts cited the need to flatten the curve, and it began to work. But too many people relaxed precautions, and the result rather than a flattened curve was a huge spike.
That spike may well lead government to reverse more than bar openings outside of this area and beach openings in Miami-Dade. Unless the curve rapidly flattens, government will face the unenviable choice of allowing all current activities with rising ranks of victims, or mandating more closures with their societal and economic pains.
So what happens to the slump-busters, officially the Covid-19 Economic Recovery Task Force, which is facing the Herculean task of finding ways to pull the whole of Miami-Dade out of the economic slump that the virus and its impacts have created?
Imagine, as Miami Today’s Jesse Scheckner reported last week, the task force must offer its first report by July 8, in the teeth of a rapidly worsening pandemic.
One segment of that team is to report on enforcement of current health guidelines, how to improve their enforcement, how to handle contact tracing, and to prepare for a second wave of Covid-19 even while the first wave is soaring out of control.
To report that effectively, the team needs to know how much money can be available to achieve its aims. The team cannot assume an unlimited bank account, but on the other hand it cannot in good faith recommend less than adequate solutions.
We can’t hit the ideal level of contact tracing, for example, because we lack manpower to trace 1,000-plus new cases daily. For contact tracing to succeed, we require the smaller number of cases that only a flatter curve brings. That was once, and must again be, a goal we attain.
Another segment of the task force aims to assess business needs occupation by occupation, the safety equipment they must have, and how the businesses can stay afloat financially to get past the crisis.
Clearly, assumptions of businesses’ financial needs depend on the opening levels of establishments in various fields:
■Bars here have been closed for months, and dining at restaurants could again follow unless virus numbers are tamped down.
■Reopened hotels can’t fill enough rooms at sufficient rates if the beaches that many of them rely upon must remain closed, and certainly not if increasing virus rates trim visitor traffic into Miami.
■Home sales to out-of-towners will continue to suffer if Florida remains handicapped by higher-than-average virus rates.
Each other category of business has its own health risks as well as its own economic threats.
The slump-busters unit facing the hardest uphill climb may be the one focused on marketing, aiming to leverage promotional efforts to “get the message out that [the county] is safe and open for business…”
Safety is relative, but it’s hard to send the word that we are safe when statistics are telling us that we aren’t. As hospitalizations rise, do we market that the percentage of hospitalized people who die is falling? Not a strong message.
Marketing professionals know it’s very difficult to sell what you don’t have. Until we see grim totals of cases and hospitalizations fall, it’s impossible to get a message out that we’re safe. I wouldn’t want that marketing job until safety is real.
To make it real, we must seriously follow and enforce health rules, and the rules have to have enough teeth to succeed. Nations that took the firmest steps early on have had the best success in tamping down the virus.
Our economic recovery cannot succeed without a safe community in which to do business. Even then, full recovery may take years. But if the public doesn’t feel safe, recovery will take a lot longer and be a lot more painful.
Those who don’t take the New Normal health regulations seriously are adding to that pain. Government must enforce the rules.