April 27, 2020
A Message from Mayor Weaver
Much of the national discussion this past week has been about reopening national and local economies. Not surprisingly, there is vigorous debate about whether these actions are too soon or not soon enough. Both answers can be correct. It is too soon to abandon social distancing and let up on our community-wide efforts to keep this community and its property owners and workers safe. Although the number of reported new COVID-19 cases in the State and County may be flattening (even that is under debate), some public health authorities do not anticipate reaching the recommended threshold of completing 14 days with decreasing COVID-19 cases until mid-May. Public health experts warn that after that time, continued outbreaks during the summer and a second wave in the fall are possible, maybe even likely.
It is also not too soon to anticipate and plan for the resumption of Kiawah’s tourism-driven economy. As we shift into this next phase, Kiawah’s businesses have the difficult job of rebuilding Kiawah’s position as a top destination while meeting their continuing responsibility to protect the safety of their customers, workers, and our community. That is going to take a good deal of planning, sound judgment, and new thinking. We should expect that for some time businesses on Kiawah will necessarily look and act differently. Our major businesses are now considering, as they should, when and how they can restart their business activity in the most responsible manner possible.
The Governor has not provided a timeline for relaxing restrictions on business activity, and we are likely two or three weeks away from seeing significant changes on Kiawah. This will give ample time for our businesses to plan the eventual resumption of operations. The Town is exploring with MUSC steps to offer their expertise and advice to our business community so that they have the benefit of current medical advice and best practices, can best address the community, ensure customer and worker safety, and incorporate social distancing and hygiene safeguards into their business practices.
We are also exploring, with MUSC and other providers, the possible benefits of offering COVID-19 immunity testing for residents and workers on the island so that we have a better understanding across the community and in our workforce of our vulnerability to future outbreaks. We will communicate further about this as these discussions progress.
As businesses restart, even in a measured, phased manner, it will mean a change to our status quo. Resuming Kiawah’s economy will generate considerably more people to our island, especially as hotel and short-term rental occupancies recover. We will need to work harder to ensure that the public places where we want or need to congregate – the beach, bike paths, stores, and restaurants – remain safe, especially for those who will continue to remain most at risk throughout the coming months. It is evident from the emails I receive that Kiawah very much reflects the national mood and uncertainty. Many in the community are cautiously ready to see some resumption of business activity. Yet, I hear as frequently from those that are convinced that it is “too soon” and fear that acting too quickly will endanger the many people in our community that fit the profile for those most vulnerable to this pandemic.
We have been traveling in uncharted territory during the past several weeks, and so far, Kiawah should feel pretty good about how it has fared. The next month, or months, will be no different, and we face risks that must be addressed whether we start back up or if we don’t. We will continue to keep you apprised of the community’s actions in response to COVID-19. Please continue to provide your feedback, offer your ideas, and express your concerns.