Masked Frustration With Evolving Restrictions

Start-and-stop coronavirus restrictions are frustrating and confusing, especially for Florida’s bars, restaurants, salons and gyms.

Editor’s note: Contributing columnist, Steve Nicklas, expresses his views and insight on various topics in Marketplace.

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It’s difficult for residents to mask their frustrations with the on-again/off-again restrictions over the coronavirus. The same goes for service businesses like restaurants and salons and gyms slowly dying in Northeast Florida.

Often at the center of the frustration is protective masks – when and where to wear them. The rules can differ from store to store, town to town. From Fernandina Beach to Nassau County to Jacksonville, for instance. And things can change rapidly, sometimes arbitrarily.

The confusion adds more tension to a complicated situation. Check your temperature. Stay six feet apart. Put on a mask when you get up from your table. In the meantime, restaurants and stores try to interpret and implement the rules, while regulators swarm.

In a nutshell, our lifestyles have been downgraded by a virus with a high degree of contagion but a relatively low rate of death. Regardless, the fear is palpable, abetted by the uncertainty.

There have been 4,500 deaths caused by the coronavirus so far in Florida, out of 21 million residents. So your odds of dying from it are quite low, despite a recent spike in new cases. To put the deaths in comparison, heart disease and cancer each take 50,000 lives a year in Florida.

Another significant source of casualties will be small businesses. There are 2.5 million small businesses in Florida, and many more than 4,500 will become casualties this year.

The impact will be magnified, as 3.4 million Floridians are employed by these small businesses. One study shows that 600,000 people who have lost their jobs have also lost their health insurance. This is a hidden fallout.

Meanwhile, our once-vibrant Florida economy staggers along. Gov. Ron DeSantis, a proponent of quickly reopening the economy here, has revised his decision. DeSantis reduced the level of reopenings recently as coronavirus cases surged.

But the start-and-stop motions are difficult for small businesses, as is trying to explain the rules to sometimes unruly patrons. A single violation of the rules can cost a restaurant or shop its livelihood.

“There is that handful of people that are struggling with the mandate and taking it out on us,” says one restaurant owner in the Jacksonville area. “We’ve been verbally harassed … it’s a tough position.”

In fact, the wearing and effectiveness of protective masks have become obsessions with the national media. Everyone rejoiced when a picture surfaced of President Trump wearing a mask while touring Walter Reed Hospital, as an example.

Florida has also fallen under a microscope recently. The NBA is resuming its season at Disney World and the Republican National Convention has relocated to Jacksonville. In addition, there are three NFL teams in the state and numerous college football teams.

It remains to be seen if these sports can operate fruitfully under the shadow and confinements and limitations of the virus. Or if there will be more masked frustrations.

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Steve Nicklas Financial Advisor
Steve Nicklas

Steve Nicklas is a financial advisor for a major brokerage firm who lives and works on Amelia Island. He is also an award-winning columnist. His columns appear regularly in several newspapers in North Florida and South Georgia, and on his website: www.SteveNicklasMarketplace.com. He has also published a book, “All About Money,” consisting of his favorite columns over the past 20 years. The book is available at local stores and on Amazon. He can be reached at 904-753-0236 or at [email protected].