On December 3, the Naples City Council will conduct a special meeting to determine whether it will opt-in to the Collier County executive order mandating the wearing of face masks in certain circumstances, pass its own resolution to similar effect, or eschew a mandate while continuing to strongly encourage face coverings.

GSAC is supporting a mandate, while also urging residents to convey their personal views to the Mayor and Council members.

The coronavirus has now reached virtually every community in the nation. There were 1.9 million new cases in all of October, but the total number for November is now projected to hit 4.5 million. Just in the past week, the U.S. added an average of 173,000 new daily cases. It seems increasingly evident that this scourge will continue, and probably even worsen, until a very substantial percentage of the population has been vaccinated, which is unlikely to occur before the arrival of spring. In the meantime, during the high season in Naples, we will have literally thousands of seasonal residents, their guests, students and tourists coming to our City – both from the United States and abroad. Unlike the situation in many other states, there are no requirements that they have had a recent negative COVID-19 test, nor are they any longer required to quarantine.

At this point we all know that the young and healthy, should they contact the virus, are likely to be either asymptomatic or to recover quickly. On the other hand, some 80% of the deaths that have occurred have been among the most vulnerable population, i.e., senior citizens who have underlying health conditions or just the less effective immune systems that come with age. This latter category includes many of the residents of Naples. It is not realistic to expect that these people, many of whom live here full-time or have looked forward to coming to Naples for the season for many years, will choose to self-quarantine for the next several months.

The risk is that the positivity rate in our community will increase as the population expands. The most recent (Nov. 25) data from the Collier County Dept. of Health website indicated that 10.7% of those tested were positive. This is more than double the CDC’s recommended benchmark for reopening the economy. The worst thing that could happen to our City – – the residents, the visitors and the merchants – -would be to suffer another lockdown. We all should be willing to take whatever reasonable measures we can to avoid that eventuality.

The evidence is indisputable at this point that the wearing of masks does make a difference, both for the mask wearer and for those in close proximity. There is a reason that the Collier County Medical Society and the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce both favor a mask requirement. While some people believe that this is an infringement of their individual liberties, we have all learned to comply with seat-belt and no smoking requirements, both imposed in the interest of public health and to save lives. Wearing a face mask for the next several months would seem to be a small price to pay if it would help reverse the current trend and bring this pandemic under control.

Our elected representatives pay close attention to the views of their constituents, and they do in fact read the e-mails they receive. Please consider communicating with them on this issue prior to their meeting next Thursday.

Visit Naplesgov.com to download an agenda and watch Naples City Council Meetings online.

Jim Melican
President, GSAC