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Two years ago this month, my son was visiting for spring break in sunny Southwest Florida. What neither of us could have realized is that it was soon to become a year of many firsts—for the then 18-year-old readying to go away to college without friends and family nearby, as well as for the world at large. 

We were strolling the Clam Pass boardwalk on a late Wednesday afternoon when a heavy flow of beachgoers passed us going the opposite direction. Something was clearly amiss. Halfway into the three-quarter-mile walk through the mangrove forest, a woman with her two children in tow stopped and asked if we’d not heard the beach was closed. “No, why? What happened?” I asked. “COVID. The beaches are closed,” she said.  

That was March 18, 2020. The beaches were only supposed to be closed through the end of the month.

Similarly, our offices at Gulfshore Life Media closed for safety measures, for what we thought would be a couple of weeks. We weren’t alone. Restaurants, retail stores, entertainment venues—almost all businesses closed. The businesses that supported those businesses closed. The community closed. 

This is when the entrepreneurial spirit of businesses large and small began to employ the term “pivot.” Local wholesale operations turned retail. Dine-in restaurants turned curbside. Grocery and liquor stores turned to delivery service. All the while, social distancing and face masks became the new normal. It was a coming together, of sorts, but no one—not even our leaders on any scale—knew what was to come … much less when it would come.

And then there is the business of the most significant industry during this time: health care. Its professionals worked tirelessly around the clock, witnessing sickness, fear and death, working to the point of exhaustion, outfitting makeshift “hospitals”—and morgues—in parking lots for additional space, setting up locations for COVID testing and, ultimately, vaccinations. But this doesn’t begin to scratch the surface.

Two years later, March 2022, the hospitals are still fighting to save lives, businesses are still employing some of their pivots and many people continue to work from home. What many of us assumed would last a couple of weeks, or a couple of months, has now become a couple of years. We celebrate the region’s economic recovery and growth, but there have been many costs of COVID and substantial upheaval in our day-to-day routines, and we can only hope that, in time, our “new normal,” as it’s been dubbed, will stabilize, feeling more comfortable … somewhat similar, despite its differences, to that of our lives before. 

I’m curious to hear my son’s perspective when we return to Clam Pass boardwalk while he’s here for spring break 2022—which will definitely be a milestone worth celebrating. 

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