The first order of business

Published 5:50 pm Friday, May 1, 2020

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There’s an argument being made across the state that business should re-open as usual, despite the fact that numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19 have yet to diminish in any significant way. It’s not necessarily the number of cases that should be the gauge: as testing ramps up, it makes sense that more of those tests will be returned positive for COVID-19. Rather, it’s the percentage of positive versus negative tests that should be looked at, along with how many people are hospitalized or have died due to the virus.

Beaufort County Health Director Jim Madson has said those of us in Beaufort County are in a good position when it comes to the virus — the fact that Beaufort County is rural weighs in its favor.

For the past several weeks, Beaufort County numbers have remained low. At any given time, it would seem that there are no more than seven known active cases. For a population of 47,000, that’s not many at all.

So, yes, an argument can be made that Beaufort County should be up and running, especially since there are many people out of work and money that was likely already tight is getting tighter.

However, there’s a problem with the idea of wholesale reopening. Go to any local grocery store, hardware store or pharmacy and there seem to be two distinct groups of people. There are the people who are wearing masks and noticeably taking other preventative measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 — for example, handling goods with gloved hands or using disinfectant wipes. Then there are the others who are unmasked and don’t appear to have altered their habits in any way. These are the people who pay no attention to six-foot markers intended to socially distance customers; these are the people who think the arrows marking one-way traffic down a grocery store aisle are not meant for them; they’re the people who stop to chat with an acquaintance, forcing other shoppers into close contact in order to move around them. Such casual disregard of recommended ways to stop the spread of COVID-19 in public makes one wonder if any preventative efforts are being made by some people at all.

If the county was to open up for business as usual, what would that look like? Would measures be taken to ensure people take all the precautions needed to prevent the spread of the virus? Would it be left up to individual business owners? Would concern be glibly dealt with by saying “if you don’t like it, stay home?”

The first order of any business is to inspire confidence in your customer base. When the doors open again, every business owner should be taking that into consideration, whether they personally believe they are at risk or not.