SWFL grapples with surging COVID-19 cases, precautions

Writer: Joey Pellegrino
People waiting for a COVID-19 vaccine. Credit: WINK News

We’re seeing COVID-19 numbers we haven’t seen in Lee County since July 2020. Mask mandates are making a comeback, as the CDC once again recommends that everyone cover up their faces in certain places, even if you are fully vaccinated. But does that mean you need your mask once again when running errands?

Publix tells WINK News, “We are reviewing the updated CDC guidance at this time and will provide updates regarding our policies as appropriate.” Many other companies have remained silent about a possible new mask mandate: Walmart, Target and McDonald’s are among several major retailers and restaurant chains that have yet to comment on new recommendations around mask-wearing as COVID-19 cases climb nationwide.

This comes as Lee Health’s COVID-19 numbers have gone up 600% in the last couple of weeks. Business owners in Fort Myers have conflicted feelings about all this.

“At this point, we can’t stop our business because of something we don’t even know,” said Quinton Dieterle, who owns a business in downtown Fort Myers. “We don’t even know what the outcome is going to be at the end. So we just have to keep moving ahead.”

The businesses WINK News spoke with in downtown Fort Myers and some of neighboring cities are not implementing mask requirements in their stores until Gov. Ron DeSantis recommends it.

“To require it everywhere?” said Fort Myers resident Phil Lipscomb. “No, not when they have the vaccine.”

“In a way, I just feel like nobody really knows,” Dieterle said. “It’s like a guessing game. So I feel like if you’re really worried that much about getting a virus, then stay home. If you’re not, go out. It’s your option.”

Lee Health still offers walk-in vaccines at Gulf Coast Medical Center. Anyone can get a COVID-19 test at Lee Convenient Care locations, retailers like CVS and Walgreens also offer same-day appointments for tests and the Florida Department of Health operates a drive-thru location in Fort Myers.

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