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Spike in cases: Collier County won’t consider shutting down unless hospitals overwhelmed

Coming back from a devastating few months, businesses in Collier County say their customers are starting to walk back through their doors despite a rise in coronavirus cases. The number of cases is up 266% from four weeks ago when businesses were shut down.

Collier County commissioners say this a concern. We looked at whether this could change anything amid the current reopening phases Wednesday.

The answer we are hearing: If hospitals aren’t overwhelmed, commissioners don’t feel they need to shut down the county again.

Closing for as long as the county did nearly put some out of business for good.

”I’m not scared, keep my distance,” Roger Bessette said. “I don’t wear a mask unless I’m made to.”

And being told you can’t go to the beach is the last thing Bessette would want to hear, now that cases are up in Florida.

“Most of the people that have passed away have other issues because of their health,” Bessette said.

Others raised concerns about Immokalee becoming a COVID-19 hot spot and wonder if it will force Collier County to backtrack.

”Folks are relaxing, sometimes a little too much,” Commissioner Penny Taylor said.

It’s a problem Commissioner Taylor sees more since restrictions have been lifted.

“Social distancing, so that becomes almost unenforceable with the beaches,” Taylor said. “I think, if people are concerned about it, they just don’t go to the beach.”

Meanwhile, businesses are doing all that they can to keep customers healthy and safe after finally reopening.

“Keep everything sterilized, wear a mask, have the Lysol wipes, hand sanitizer,” said Matthew Cross, a local barbershop owner. “We got it all.”

Spike in cases or not, Cross says he won’t shut down his barber shop again, even if the government says to.

”I can’t afford to,” Cross said. “I already closed for two months. I’ve had zero unemployment, zero help from the government. It’s either close my business for good or stay open.”

Others such as BHA! BHA! Persian Bistro plan to stay closed voluntarily. A “See you in September sign” is on the restaurant’s front door, and a Facebook post by the restaurant in May said, “We need to take the widest approach.”

Commissioner Bill McDaniel is trying to help his district of Immokalee stop the spread of COVID-19, investing more time in educating the community about the coronavirus and more efforts to help people find resources to protect themselves.”

”It certainly needs to be monitored,” Commissioner McDaniel said. “There is an increase in cases, but there also is an increase in testing.”

Reporter:Gina Tomlinson
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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