July 27, 2020 11:00am

Influencers weigh in on coronavirus’ continuing effect

The monthly Palm Beach Post Power Poll asked about virtual schooling, coronavirus statistics and more.

By Leslie Gray Streeter

How should employers assist a workforce stressed by the responsibilities of virtual schooling in the wake of ever-increasing coronavirus numbers in Palm Beach County? What statistics and facts are shaping locals’ understanding of the crisis? And what activities or hobbies have been explored since the shutdown earlier this year?

These were the questions posed to 430 Palm Beach County civic, business and community leaders as part of the Palm Beach Post’s July Power Poll. In total, 120 answered three questions about how the pandemic continues to shape our lives.

The first question for this month’s poll was “Palm Beach County public schools likely will have students start the school year online, which is a burden for parents who work. If you are an employer, or if you were, what would you do to help parents who must work while their children get their schooling online?”

An overwhelming 70.83 percent of respondents replied “I would find a way for them to work at home.” Fifteen percent chose “I would change their hours or find another job in the company that better works with their schedule,” while 10 percent chose “I would try to set up some kind of daycare at the workplace” and 4.17 percent picked “Having a child is the parents’ responsibility. They need to be prepared for when their children can’t go to school.”

“These are extraordinary times for the world,” said Jan Cairnes, CEO of West Palm Beach’s Hanley Foundation. ”...Talking about sending or not sending children back to school is such a difficult topic. I suggest that we eliminate grade levels in schools and eliminate the term ‘holding children back’ and just know that some children are going to excel with home/online schooling, and many children are going to be behind. Does it matter if your child goes to college at 18 or 19? It doesn’t.”

The second question on this month’s poll was about what criteria and information people turn to. “As the coronavirus pandemic continues to surge through Palm Beach County and Florida, what are the statistics you look for to understand the outbreak?” Most respondents, 33.3 percent, answered “I look for the positivity rate - how many people test positive among those tested. If it’s above 10%, I see that as a cause for concern; under 10%, then I think we’re making progress.”

Thirty two percent answered “I look at the total number of coronavirus cases. If those numbers keep rising, chances are other numbers will rise as well,” while 19.7% said, “I seek out the number of people hospitalized. That tells me that while the number of overall cases may be large, the cases are not that serious if the hospitalization numbers are decreasing,” and 15 percent chose “I look for the death rate - the number of people who die from the disease from the total number of positive cases. Whether we have a lot of cases, or a few, it’s a telling number.

“Positivity rate is probably the best number to look at, but percentage of symptomatic patients would serve a purpose as well,” said Palm Beach Gardens City Council member Mark Marciano. “For business owners, how are we handling our staffing issues with more people being out of work due to a viral infection.”

The third and final question for the July poll was about how locals have spent their time since the lock down. The question: “It looks like Palm Beach County won’t be entering Phase 2 of its reopening anytime soon, so that means more hunkering down at home. Since the shutdown began, what skills or hobbies have you picked up or gotten back into?”

More than half of respondents, 52.5 percent, selected the answer “Built/created something either useful or artistic.” The second-most selected answer, “None. Binged on Netflix and Ben & Jerry’s,” was the choice of 40.83 percent of respondents. ” Four percent said that they “learned how to play a musical instrument,” and 2.5 percent wrote “learned a new language.”

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About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

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