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St. Pete 2.0 Results: Adjusting to the new normal after six months of Covid-19 (Part Two)

Jaymi Butler

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The New Normal

The St. Petersburg renaissance has been in full swing for more than a decade. We’ve excelled in many areas and struggled in others. In our series St. Pete 2.0, we’re partnering with the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership to explore what lies on the other side of our potential – what will it take to move to the “next level” as a city? Through this series, we’ll dig into specific topics with the hope that you, our thoughtful citizens, will share your insight, experience and wisdom. 

Six months ago, we were just beginning to understand the significant and long-lasting impact Covid-19 would have on our lives. Many of us have struggled to maintain our mental health in the face of so much uncertainty, and we feel the loss of human connection as events are canceled and family vacations put on pause. 

In part one of our St. Pete 2.0 survey, we explored the social and emotional effects caused by the pandemic, which respondents ranked as having the most significant impacts on their lives. In part two, we’re taking a look at the physical and financial toll of Covid-19. Here’s what we learned:

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest and 1 being the lowest, how much has Covid-19 impacted your physical health, either directly from the virus or from lifestyle changes as a result?

Very few respondents mentioned adverse health effects from Covid itself. The change of lifestyle, on the other hand, has been hard for many people to adjust to.

“I’ve gained weight from too many seated video conference calls and not enough exercise and feeling too tired to exercise and keep up a routine,” one commenter wrote.

A number of respondents said that they were working out outdoors in the early days of the pandemic when gyms were closed, but that it’s too hot to do that now. 

“I no longer go to the gym, and prefer not to workout in the summer heat, which has led to weight gain,” another person replied.

Putting on extra pounds was a common complaint.

“I’ve gained the Quarantine 15, probably mostly because of increased alcohol consumption and couch-bound binge-watching after work. I both curse and thank God for wine delivery from our favorite St. Pete wine boutiques,” wrote Jennifer Davis Dodd. 

A commenter named Joe got right to the point.

“I’m fat now,” he wrote.

On the flip side of the coin, some respondents said the pandemic has given them the motivation – and the time – to adopt a healthier lifestyle. 

“I’m not commuting and am working from home so I have more time to exercise and eat healthier,” one person wrote.

Several people said that eating meals at home instead of going out all the time like they did pre-Covid has improved their diet.

“Mostly, I am eating better and drinking less,” observed Doug Phares. “ I suppose it might be better for me.”

Aside from diet and exercise changes, several people talked about modifications they’ve made to protect themselves from the virus. Some spoke of putting off medical procedures, while others say they’re simply not going out unless they absolutely have to.

“I am so much more cautious about where I go,” said Kitty Rawson. “I avoid crowds. I wear a mask if I think I am going to be in a crowd. Someone else does most of the grocery shopping for me. I’ve cancelled three different planned trips. I’m afraid (yes, afraid) to eat inside a restaurant although I will eat outside or purchase takeout. I walk at the beach only early in the morning or at nearly sunset. Haven’t been to a museum, even once they have opened.”

Daniel Cameron agreed.

“I’m making more conscious decisions about social interactions and avoiding people when sick or who are sick,” he wrote.

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest and 1 being the lowest, how much has Covid-19 impacted your financial situation?

There wasn’t much of a grey area in terms of responses to this question. Many people said they’ve been able to keep their jobs and those who have already retired didn’t report much of a financial impact. However, for business owners and people who were laid off during the pandemic, the stress has made a bad situation even worse.

“I’m a stay-at-home mom who was planning on starting part-time work as a substitute teacher in the fall. I no longer want to put my child in daycare or expose myself to that many children,” wrote Crystal Robinson-Fisher. “Meanwhile my husband has been laid off since March. He took a temporary position right now making almost half of what his annual salary was last year.”

She’s not the only parent in that position.

“I had to take time off work (commission-based) to take care of my child with no help or childcare due to Covid exposure concerns,” the commenter wrote.

Mark Anderson, the owner of St. Pete Salt Works, said he’s doing the best he can to keep his business in operation despite the challenging landscape.

“All rent and loans were deferred until now,” he wrote. “I’m trying my best to pick up all the pieces and then pay back deferred rent. All I can do is laugh at the math ‘cause it can’t make sense. It’s a bummer. And it’s out of my control.”

Lyn Wilkinson is trying to figure out how she’ll open her pilates studio safely. 

“I’ve been paying rent for six months on a new space, but unable to open it with no income,” she said. 

While a few people commented that they’re spending more on online shopping and grocery delivery, a significant number reported that the pandemic has actually benefited them financially.

“We actually save a good deal of money by not taking cruises, not eating out and not spending money on entertainment,” wrote Wayne “Skipp” Fraser. 

Another participant agreed.

“With travel and fun stuff no longer a possibility, we have saved a bunch into our emergency fund and are actually paying down some long term debt faster than anticipated,” the commenter noted.

On a positive note, some respondents said they’re shifting their spending and giving back to local organizations in need.

“My spending on dining, theater and other forms of entertainment has dwindled to a trickle,” one person wrote. “I’ve made up for that to some extent by increasing donations to impacted nonprofits.”

Community resources:

The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay

Zero Suicide Partners of Pinellas 

Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County

Pinellas County‘s Covid resource page

To read more of the the Catalyst series The New Normal: Six Months Under Covid, click here

Coming next: Silver linings, surprises and where do we go from here?

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