With the novel coronavirus pandemic cutting a swath of destruction through virtually every country on Earth, what was once the fear of the complete unknown has been replaced by the fear of not knowing how long we’re all going to have to deal with it.

Publisher Gary Nager

And of course, the virus itself is scary, because it’s been affecting and killing more than just the elderly and the immune-compromised. Its level of contagiousness seems to be far beyond any flu during my lifetime, including the swine flu that was labeled a pandemic back in 2009 or so, even though that virus never shut down life as we know it here the way Covid-19 has already.

One of the things that has this editor additionally concerned about its effects here in the Sunshine State was that the Pinellas County beaches were allowed to remain open by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (who I voted for) — despite warnings from U.S. President Donald Trump and his Coronavirus Task Force (headed by VP Mike Pence), the World Health Organization and other experts across the globe saying that there should be no gatherings larger than ten people, at least until the virus leveled out. 

It was hard to blame Pinellas County officials for not wanting to close the beaches at the height of the all-important Spring Break season, but how many more new cases of the virus could we have prevented going forward by closing them as soon as the social distancing recommendations for gatherings got below even 1,000 people a week or so before those Pinellas officials finally decided to take action? What effect will those potential additional cases have on our economy’s long-term attempts to crawl out from under this rock?

No one loves St. Pete Beach, Treasure Island, Madeira and the other area beaches more than Jannah and I do. We try to stay there as many nights as we can because they’re 1) an hour or less away (and have much easier access than Clearwater Beach), 2) they’re beautiful, 3) have great restaurants and nightlife and 4) we can’t afford the time off work or the expense of going away for more than a few days at a time. Why go anywhere else?

The only time we didn’t consider heading that way was once this virus started to affect people here, especially once we saw — every day — how devastating the effects have been on China, Italy and other countries that didn’t act quickly enough to curtail the kind of casual contact with others we all usually take for granted.

This is particularly upsetting for the foodie in me — seeing our local restaurants closing at least to dine-in customers or altogether — and not knowing which ones won’t be able to return, even after the spectre of Covid-19 isn’t as terrifying. I know it was unfortunate timing that we finally released my “Gary’s Faves” the week after this thing really hit us here, but most of the eateries listed were at least still doing the takeout and/or delivery-only thing at our press time. Please call the restaurants to see what they’re doing and please support them if they are still open.

And Finally…Help Us Help You!

Obviously, restaurants aren’t the only ones hurting right now and, as a local business that makes most of its money from hyperlocal businesses, there’s no doubt we’re already feeling the pinch of this pandemic, too — and have no idea yet how much worse it’s going to get.

But, after 26 years of serving only the New Tampa and Wesley Chapel communities, I have had to respond to many problems beyond my control in years past, but never anything that has me as concerned as this does right now.

My promise to the 70+ businesses that still saw fit to place an ad in our latest New Tampa issue — and the similar number of businesses that advertise in our Wesley Chapel editions — is that we are going to try to do as much as we can to continue to support you not only in print, but on our Facebook page, our website and our YouTube channel — at no additional charge, of course.

If you already are or see fit to become a Neighborhood News advertiser at this grim hour, anytime your hours change, or you have a special offer to help keep your business as solvent as possible, and anytime you make a Facebook post or send out an email explaining what you are doing (even if it changes more than once), we will share it on our website and social media. We want…no, make that we need…to try to help you make it through this crisis and yes, we still need the business, too.

Email me at ads@ntneighborhoodnews.com or call our office at (813) 910-2575 for more information.

Stay safe and stay healthy, both physically and fiscally. Godspeed!   

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