Mayor balances public health, keeping businesses open on Fort Myers Beach

On the day the global death toll of the coronavirus hit 2 million, we spoke to the leader of a Southwest Florida town that depends significantly on tourism and the challenges that come with managing public health and local business success.

We spoke to Mayor Ray Murphy of Fort Myers Beach Friday. He says it’s a delicate balance keeping businesses open while keeping people safe during the pandemic.

The mayor does not want people to forget there is still an ordinance requiring masks in most places throughout the town

People we spoke to understand the importance of businesses being able to stay open and survive, but some told us they’re concerned people are becoming too relaxed about safety measures such as masks.

“I’m happy for the businesses that are doing well, you know, they’re making money now,” Murphy said. “But I’m also concerned about people letting their guard down.”

Two days ago, Murphy says he was contacted by a local business looking for guidance about how to respond to people not respecting the town’s mask policy.

“They said, ‘What do I do if they refuse to put their masks on?’ I said, ‘Well, you don’t allow them to enter into your business’ because they care about their employees,” Murphy explained.

People we spoke to are concerned more and more people are starting to let their guard down.

“I have seen a lot of people who are very lackadaisical about their masks, and that kind of concerns me,” Linda White said.

“I must have said a million times, ‘Wow, I can’t get over how packed this beach is,’” Gina Johnson said.

Mayor Murphy says the Town still handing out fines in situations where they feel like it is necessary. He wanted to remind people the pandemic is not over yet, and people must continue to keep safety on their mind as the pandemic continues.

Those living and working on Fort Myers Beach appreciate the crowds, since that’s their livelihood, but they still want people to be safe.

“There’s a nice crowd on the beach, in the restaurants, live music, you know, people are still having fun,” Jim Barnes said. “But yeah, it’s still in the back of your mind that we’re in a pandemic.”

Reporter:Justin Kase
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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