John Bartus

As time moves on while COVID-19 still affects just about everything, we have come to the point many of us have been awaiting for weeks: the gradual reopening and hopeful resumption of our lives. With cautious optimism, we have begun venturing out into the world as restaurants and “non-essential” businesses can reopen.

And on June 1, the roadblock comes down and the Keys will once again open to visitors.

A couple of things I’d like to remind everyone about as we begin to regain normalcy: vigilance and kindness.

As we do reopen, it won’t be at 100%. Social distancing, wearing masks, and reduced capacity will still be in effect. We have been blessed because we’ve been somewhat isolated. An influx of visitors from northern hotspots could increase the number of cases we have here in the islands, and has the potential to overwhelm local health care providers. I am not suggesting that this is going to happen; remaining vigilant and cautious can keep our case count low.

That’s why hand washing, mask wearing, and social distancing will be our new normal for at least a while. It may be necessary to educate visitors on mask and distance requirements, as people from other areas might not understand the need. (Hopefully, frequent hand washing will remain the new normal.) After all we’ve already been through, I hope that all of us realize the need to stay safe. Not wearing a mask doesn’t make you a rebel — but it certainly ensures that everyone knows that you’re ignorant or stupid (or both).

Kindness is the other essential quality I hope we all practice. First of all, please remember that many of us aren’t 100% back to work. When dining out, please take really good care of your servers (that means TIP). So many of us locals have been out of work for quite a while, and are all just trying to play catch-up at this point.

The same goes for all of our local businesses just reopening. If you are one of the lucky ones who remained employed (or are just in good shape), patronizing local businesses is the best way to get our economy going. Conventional wisdom states that a dollar spent locally circulates through the community seven times. I’d rather keep that money here in the islands — wouldn’t you?

Kindness also might come in handy when dealing with our visitors who may not be observing our mask and social distancing requirements back from where they came. The signs on the doors of most businesses are good reminders; a friendly reminder from staff or management may be all that’s needed to encourage compliance.

For other holdouts — for whatever reason — a somewhat harsher tone may be required. A local Realtor (whose name I won’t mention but his initials are Josh Mothner) shared a post from Science Badger that answered the popular social media question, “So because the CDC said it, you’re just going to blindly listen to them without doing your own research?” 

The answer basically destroyed the questioner’s ability to rationally draw a breath, much less think: “Do you honestly think your Google skills are worth six and a half billion dollars a year of scientific research by scientists specializing in that field?” This is one of the parts of that answer I can quote in a family newspaper; the rest certainly bears reading.

So be calm, vigilant, and kind. Mike Forster & Co. will be back at Brutus Seafood to distribute free hot lunches and bags of produce this Saturday starting at 11:00 a.m. I will perform live this Thursday at Sparky’s Landing in Marathon, 6:30 p.m. And I will be playing my latest Social Distancing Concert 9 on Facebook Live, this Friday at 7:30 p.m. from my Facebook page: 

– Catch John Thursdays at Sparky’s Landing, and Fridays at his Social Distancing Concerts on Facebook Live. Music available on and iTunes, and wherever you get your streaming music.

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