Residents split on timing of businesses reopening with COVID-19


CLAY COUNTY – As local businesses begin to reopen around the county, some residents feel COVID-19 isn’t being taken seriously, while others believe this reopening should have happened a lot sooner.

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced stages of reopening sectioned by phases. With each subsequent phase a county enters more and more business inch closer to normalcy. Clay County is out of its essential-business-only phase as local restaurants, coffee shops, laundromats and more open back up once more. How do people feel about this?

“Those who wish to stay at home should,” Donna Heise said. “Those who want to live their lives should. We should tolerate both without judgments. Stop calling people selfish.”

Local nurse Lisa Shellenbarger said she believes the reopening of businesses is the right call. She said the point of the shutdown was to flatten the virus’s curve and not overload the county’s healthcare system. The curve has been flattened, according to her, and her hospital is now at the point where it’s actually suffering because of the shutdown as patients aren’t yet able to have wanted surgeries and procedures.

Vicki Allen said all people should have been tested before things opened up with requirements to wear masks at all times when out in the public too. She said opening up Jacksonville and St. Augustine beaches just six weeks into the pandemic was a mistake.

“At some point, people would have to start leaving their houses again,” Selena Gasbarro said. “People need to go back to work, and for the mental health of us all, including our children, we need to be able to responsibly socialize and have moments of normality. I’m positive that normal will now be different, but these steps are necessary now. It’s up to us as individuals to be responsible about how we return to society.”

Gasbarro’s sentiment echoes the thoughts of many other residents who feel that it’s their right to determine whether or not it’s safe or not to go out into public, eat at local businesses and shop at local stores.

“If people use common sense, it will be OK,” Beverly Walker said. “It is your choice what you do.”

Others though feel this is all too soon. Annette Velasquez-Hlebinsky said, “It’s way too soon.”

Peter Swanson asked why he isn’t seeing more people in Clay County wearing masks.

“Have they no respect for the health care workers and first responders? Have they no respect for their fellow citizens? Masks and social distancing are just plain common sense. Do they think all of our nursing home deaths just happened spontaneously? If I were looking to locate a large business in this county, and I witnessed this selfish, stupid behavior, I’d give Clay a pass.”

Some people think it’s too early to begin reopening Clay County while others think it should’ve happened sooner. Wherever you fall on this subject, practice social distancing, wear your mask in public and if you feel sick, coronavirus or not, stay home.


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