May 25, 2020 5:00pm

Influencers weigh in on the county’s reopening, masks and sheltering-in

The Palm Beach Post Power Poll also asked what will be missed most about sheltering-in place

By Leslie Gray Streeter
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How do Palm Beach County’s civic, business and community leaders feel about guidelines for wearing masks to guard against coronavirus?

How comfortable are they with the way the county is reopening?

And what, if anything, will they miss about their time sequestered during this crisis?

The third Palm Beach Post Power Poll asked those questions of 429 leading citizens, including lawmakers, business owners and more, and 148 responded.

The first Power Poll question was “The use of masks has become a topic of debate, especially as states continue to reopen businesses and outdoors areas. Which option most closely resembles where you stand?” Almost half of the respondents, 46.2 percent, or 69 of the 148 who answered the survey, agreed with the statement “Everyone should wear masks when they’re out in the public.”

>> PHOTOS: Palm Beach County beaches and Juno Beach Pier reopened for the first time last week

23 percent of the respondents, or 35 people, felt that “Masks should be required for employees/customers of specific businesses, including grocery stores and nail and hair salons and barbershops.” About 11 percent believed that “Masks should be mandatory for airline travel and any mass transit option that cannot accommodate safe social distancing,” but 18.24 agreed that “As long as you maintain proper social distancing, masks should not be required, but recommended.”

“Regrettably, too many people are flaunting the advice to wear masks and gloves and maintain proper distance,” said Lynn University Director of American Studies, Robert Watson commented. And former longtime Palm Beach County Commissioner Paulette Burdick said that residents should “continue to be smart and safe...demonstrate your respect for other people by wearing your mask.”

The second Power Poll question focused on the respondents’ feelings about reopening. They were asked “What’s your comfort level with Palm Beach County’s reopening process?” Nearly half of those who answered, or 45.9 percent, agreed with the statement “I am confident that our state and local leaders are setting safe and reasonable guidelines.” Another 22.30 percent agreed that “I agree with reopening, but with stricter guidelines, including 25 percent capacity for retail/restaurants and no congregating on beaches.” Interestingly,  31.76 percent agreed that “sheltering-in-place orders should have been maintained at least through the end of May.”

>> PHOTOS: Part II - Reopening Palm Beach County

“Sooner we open, the better,” responded Palm Beach State Attorney's Office spokesman Mike Edmondson. Meanwhile, Julie Seaver, Executive Director of Lake Worth’s Compass LGBTQ Community Center, commented that while she understood “the need for entering into reopening phases, slowly, smartly and safely,” she felt that “mis-report(ing) of the testing encourage the phases of reopening has instilled a lack of trust in most of us. Transparency is KEY to the success of reopening.”

And Patrick Franklin, president and CEO of the Urban League of Palm Beach County, is concerned that “we have not done enough to protect the most vulnerable in our community, the front-line workers who are going back to work to support their families,” and that those people “do not have an adequate supply of PPE’s at their respective workplace to sustain an extended period after reopening.” He also said there had not been “enough testing in the low-income minority communities throughout Palm Beach County. A plan of action needs to be developed and implemented for continuous testing. Be safe and make good decisions.”

The third and final Power Poll question concerned the unexpected time at home that many in the county found themselves with during the lockdown. They were asked, “As we gradually regain some normalcy to our everyday lives, what will you miss most about sheltering-in?” More than half, or 52.70 percent, responded that they would most miss “time with my family that’s often lost through our hectic schedules,” while 31.08 percent said that “I will miss nothing about sheltering-in.” Meanwhile, 12.16 percent of respondents said they would miss “opportunities to start or complete household projects, discover a hobby or improve a skill, such as cooking,” and 4.05 percent said they’ll miss “opportunities to start or complete household projects, discover a hobby or improve a skill, such as cooking.”

Jan Cairnes, CEO of the Hanley Foundation, had a different take on the subject of how the stay-at-home orders have affected her time. “I’m working an average of three additional hours per day because I am working from home. I don’t have time for household projects, cleaning out my closet, sewing, or any of those things that you might spend time doing if you had leisure time at home. My leisure time is really limited to weekends.”

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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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