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The focus now is revitalization


The focus of elected officials now has to turn to how to reopen and revitalize our community safely at the same time that we continue to fight the COVID-19 virus and insure that it does not come back with a vengeance.

The situation is changing. Data that is now available, and was not just a couple weeks ago will help shape our next steps. The choice is not a choice between a total lockdown or to totally reopen but something in between. We know that the coronavirus will persist. We need to take proper steps to reopen. Human life cannot be the victim in a race to recapture prosperity.

That requires us to focus on what the new status quo should look like. We are encouraging broad conversations with merchants and restaurants, to understand the challenges they face and to listen to their ideas on how to meet those challenges. We have a uniquely talented and capable health care resource in Doylestown Health that needs to be part of the conversation so that basic healthy practices are at the core of “reopening.”

We knew that better weather and, perhaps, boredom and complacency, would all contribute to a fraying of our commitment to social distancing. It certainly has taken its toll on our commitment to wearing masks even though we know that wearing masks reduces transmission to others and to surfaces that others may touch. On the other hand, we have seen studies suggesting that being outside, with proper distancing, carries a lower risk of getting the infection than being indoors. All of this should guide our outlook toward providing a safe space out of doors for merchants and restaurants to operate during the “yellow” phase over the summer months.

We now know that businesses can adapt. Our grocery stores and pharmacies and such have been operating through the pandemic, adapting and learning and doing it relatively safely. They have limited the number of shoppers, required masks, spaced out lines, installed Plexiglas, provided constant cleaning. We need to work with merchants and restaurants to build on what we have learned to provide a safe environment throughout Doylestown, to achieve distancing and hygiene standards that are safe but are also perceived to be safe by residents and visitors. Businesses that cannot do that need to remain closed until it is safe to reopen.

As we work through the next months of a transition to a more open environment, we should recognize that we are not going to return to normal. We are going to define a new normal for some time to come. The economic climate in Doylestown is going to be different than what it was a few months ago. Elected officials and borough staff will need to reevaluate infrastructure to encourage economic and social activity and growth in the context of our historically rich community.

It may be time to consider zoning changes that could encourage more adaptive reuse. We may want to look at how we can more effectively and safely use our public outside spaces.

A couple months ago, we could have never imagined where we would find ourselves today. We have rallied, in so many ways, to show support and meet this crisis. However, we are really only beginning to meet the challenges in healthcare and in economic recovery.

I think we are a uniquely qualified community with talent and resources. We need to have commitment to come out on the other side of this crisis even stronger than where we started.