Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan was right to reopen the beach, Boardwalk and Inlet parking lot as a first step toward more liberties. It’s time the reopening process enter the early stages as livelihoods depend on it.
We feel the critical aspect of the COVID-19 crisis has shifted from health to economic. Lives are being forever damaged by the government shutdown of private enterprise. There was a time in mid-March when the health crisis merited mandatory business closures due to the unknowns of the mysterious virus. That time has come and gone. We now know the vulnerable among us must make difficult choices as to how they want to live in this time.
For the majority, however, this is a matter of choice and personal responsibility. The financial stress and pressure has led many to believe the cure – crippling livelihoods through eight weeks of social isolation – has been indeed worse than the disease. Let’s be clear here – the economic ramifications of the government’s shutdown of the marketplace will be felt for many years. The efforts toward recovery will take months to bear fruit. This is going to be a slow rebound for commerce.
This summer is not going to be challenging for Ocean City. It’s going to be weeks before all businesses are open and maybe months until they can operate at capacity. For restaurants and bars, everything will be different, as new health and sanitary regulations will likely result in them spending more money while sales are limited in scope in some fashion. For retail stores, restrictions will be lifted first with the expectations of restraint and safety measures but the general populace’s financial wherewithal is much in doubt. For real estate, the market was hot pre-COVID-19 and there’s no reason to believe it cannot regain steam, but the big question is how much financial damage has been done to prospective buyers and how will lenders react in these uncertain times.
Along with the disposable income questions, the biggest unknown for all these industries is whether people will want to travel immediately and resume their normal tendencies. It will likely take some time for people to adjust and feel comfortable returning to busy places and crowds. There will clearly be some phobias as we reopen and recover.
Since this will be a long road in many aspects, signs of progress are cherished. Ocean City’s mayor on Monday night demonstrated leadership when he reopened the beach and Boardwalk to everyone a week ahead of time. It was bold in some ways and Ocean City was criticized in many circles for doing it. We knew all along there had to be some support from the governor for Meehan to make this move with a stay-at-home order still in play. We wrongly assumed the governor would be moving the state into phase one of reopening the state this week. Progress will have to wait till next week. It’s time to move forward.