I have always been an early bird. In the past, I was usually at the Chamber by 6:30 or 7:00 a.m. so I could “get some work done” before the day really started. I knew it was time to get back to some form of exercise and working from home has given me the time and flexibility to start walking in the morning. I don't have to commute and frankly, without in-person meetings, I can take less time getting ready (the whole world is now used to me having wet hair in the morning).

At first, I took advantage of living next to Lakes Park and was walking there. When the “safe at home” order was implemented, I started walking RT 41. I mapped out different routes, depending on the daylight, and learned that if I weave up and down the lanes in the empty parking lots near me, I can walk for miles without dealing with crazy intersections or crossing 41. I use my Apple watch to monitor my miles and one day last week, I missed the cue that recognizes when I am walking outside (Big Brother is watching). Though I walked over 2 miles, it only registered one mile or so. I came home and was telling Elizabeth about how my “exercise ring” hadn’t closed, even though I did enough exercise today. She kind of laughed and said,” Mom, but you know you did it." True, but as a check-the-box and to-do-list type of person, it still aggravated me. But, she was right, I did it.

This morning, I realized that when I go back to working at the Chamber, Lakes Park won’t work for me as it opens at dawn and that is too late…or is it? Can I learn to actually go to work at 8:30 or 9:00 a.m. and not think that half the day is over? (Yes, I say things like that and the Chamber team laughs at me!) Maybe I can find a balance of doing a little of both, walk 41 and get to the Chamber early, or walk Lakes Park, start my day with a beautiful setting, and come in late, I mean, later! Last weekend, I walked my first virtual 5K, put on by the NHL Florida Panthers, and this weekend, I will do one to benefit Lee Health. Perhaps I am training for an upcoming Chamber event?

Yesterday we hosted our first Get Connected Day! Thank you to Conric PR & Marketing for sponsoring this inaugural event – we appreciate your support! The programs were strong and relevant, and I want to say thank you to our webinar speakers for your time and your expertise. 

It is encouraging this week – the discussions are focused on how we are going to Re-Open our community. The Florida Chamber is sharing their framework with the Chambers in Florida so we are all on the same page. They are also working with the Governor and his task forces developed to re-open Florida. Here is a link to the presentation the Florida Chamber presented to Governor DeSantis on Re-open Florida – it breaks down facts on industry, risk and more.

Lydia Black, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Arts , shared the following paper, Johns Hopkins Reopening Guidance for Governors . Opening our community will need to be strategic and this paper reviews and measures business by industry and the levels of risk. It is a great read. For those of you that are looking for guidance on how to open your business, review in particular pages 10- 12. This is the time to be preparing to open; to work through the process on how are you going to minimize the risk to your team and to your clients. The Johns Hopkins paper reviews a Hierarchy of Controls that breaks it down into 4 parts: Physical, Engineering, Administrative and PPE. We still want to continue social distancing where we can. But for those that need their team on-site to operate – do you need to build a physical barrier, like Publix did for their cashiers? Or it could be as simple as shifting or removing furniture? Can you redistribute responsibilities among your team? And do you have the materials, e.g. PPE, for your team to work safely? 

We are working with Lee Health on what protocols you would need to open in a safe way – once received, we will share with you. The Chamber is also working on sources for masks as we believe those will continue to be an essential part of the opening process. 

You will need to aggressively communicate your safe to work practices to your customers and the community. Many of the local marketing firms are offering free consulting, this may be the time to take advantage of this. If you need a connection, let us know. You will need to demonstrate that it is safe to work, safe to shop, and otherwise safe to do business once again - this will be key in the coming weeks and months. Again, any phased reopening must be in accordance with sound public health decisions, and with proper safety protocols outlined by local and state health departments.

As we start preparation to open our community, I will continue to share information and resources. Though we will still need to Distance Socially, I will ask you to Spend Locally. Let’s unite even more behind our local business owners, our artists, our neighbors.


Colleen DePasquale
On Wednesday, April 29 at noon , Christin Collins will lead a discussion about what the current situation has taught us about ourselves and well-being. She will also share lessons of self-care to help guide us as we move forward.

Christin is the System Director of Health and Wellness for Lee Health. She is also the 2012 recipient of the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce Women in Business APEX Award.

There is no cost to participate, however we ask that you register to receive the link to participate.