“The only thing we have to fear is… fear itself.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1933.
There are a lot of things unknown about the coronavirus pandemic we face, but we should try to offset the fear we have with the knowledge that we are a strong community that has faced a lot worse and come through for each other.
This past Tuesday, Governor Ron DeSantis issued an executive order that calls for all bars (defined as more than 50% of income derived from alcohol sales) to close for 30 days. It also calls for all restaurants to limit seating to 50% of their capacity, allowing for space between tables to minimize community spread through social distancing.
The idea is to prevent what happened in China and Italy with the rapid spread of coronavirus by reducing the amount of contact between people. Will it work? Time will tell, as there are still unknowns about this virus. In the meantime, there are a lot of people who will be affected by this even if they never contract the disease.
Bartenders, servers and other restaurant/bar employees could face layoffs and time out of work. These are workers who can least afford this time off. But there might be help in a couple of outside agencies suggested by caring souls (even a resort general manager) on social media. One of these is the Florida DEO’s Reemployment Assistance program. They offer assistance for those who lost jobs because of COVID-19 closures. For more information, visit: www.floridajobs.org.
Another possible way to get help is the Bartender Emergency Assistance Program through the USBG National Charity Foundation. This is a relief program designed for bartenders and those involved in the “production, promotion, or distribution of alcoholic beverages.” One does not have to be a USBG member to get help. For more information, visit: www.usbgfoundation.org
And this is an easy way you can help right now, suggested on social media: “Tip like you know your server’s going to lose their source of income in the coming weeks.” If you’re in a position to help, please consider this.
It’s good to remember that there are a lot of people afraid of what could happen if they or a loved one contract COVID-19. Promotions Guy head honcho Ryan Schraffenberger posted this bit of kindness on Facebook: “If you are elderly, have a compromised immune system, or there is any other reason you don’t want to go to the grocery store, please message me and I will be more than happy to pick up anything you might need, & deliver it to you! If the school closures have you concerned about your child not being able to eat breakfast or lunch, let me know and I can help with food!” Many people commented on Ryan’s post to volunteer their time and efforts as well.
This is why I know we’ll be okay through this coronavirus scare. People like Ryan are why they call Marathon the Heart of the Keys. Neighbors step up to help neighbors. People realize we have so much more in common than the things that divide us.
We saw this in spades in the aftermath of disasters like Wilma and Irma, and that spirit is still going strong in our town. People will step up and lend a helping hand.
In the meantime, stay vigilant. Keep up with updates from the CDC (cdc.gov), the City of Marathon’s Facebook page, and Monroe County’s social media page. If you are elderly or have health issues that might make you more susceptible, please stay home and keep your distance.
However long it takes, we will get through this. It would be good if we all remembered our collective humanity at this point. People will be affected whether or not we get coronavirus cases in the Keys. Let’s all do our part to make it as easy on us as we can.
John Bartus plays Thursdays at Sparky’s Landing, Fridays at the Lighthouse Grill, Saturdays at the Key Colony Inn and Monday at the Sunset Grille. www.facebook.com/john.bartus