PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — With beaches reopened for limited use in Bay County, many residents are happy to breathe some salt air and feel the sand beneath their feet.
When it comes to the economy, however, many are still hurting.
“My son was laid off and it was almost a month before he was able to get unemployment,” said Norma McKellar, a Panama City Beach resident. Her son is one of nearly 2 million Floridians that have filed for unemployment assistance. In Bay County, over three thousand people have filed, according to the Department of Economic Opportunity.
“It kind of scares me that we could slip into a depression,” said one Lynn Haven resident.
“You don’t want people to die but at the same time, the economy’s got to open back up at some point,” said another Panama City Beach resident who was laid off from his job.
A Panama City Beach resident who manages rental properties, Asli Theobald, said it’s not the virus she’s afraid of; it’s her bank account.
“It’s extremely scary not to have income,” said Theobald. “I mean, my savings are limited.”
She said she thinks it’s time for new solutions, even trying to organize a protest in front of Panama City Beach City Hall, saying the at-risk populations can continue to stay isolated, while others go back to work.
“Those people can continue to do the social-distancing, they can continue to stay at home,” she said. “There is no reason that we also have to stay at home and get impoverished.”
Many residents disagree.
“I definitely think it should stay closed longer or at least maybe let the locals get out,” said Ed Mullen, a PCB resident. “Just keep the tourists away.”
Panama City Beach Mayor, Mark Sheldon, said it’s a tough situation.
“Trust me when I say we want to get back to work but we just know we can’t do that yet,” said Sheldon. “The numbers aren’t there to support opening wide open back up yet so we have to watch the data and we have to watch the science.”
As of Sunday morning, there were 65 cases of COVID-19 in Bay County.