FORT MYERS — We got a glimpse of the new normal at Edison Mall.
There are sanitizing stations, and a lot of people are now wearing face masks. You aren’t even allowed to touch the doors, but aside from all that, stores are open.
As customers bustled through the hallways for the first time in more than a month, employees finally back at work were doing their best to sanitize everything.
“At night, I spend hours cleaning, and then in the morning I do the same thing, because I’m paranoid," said Chey Howlett, the manager at Candy Cane Sugar.
The store also has a sanitizing station, and Howlett has completely changed how they store their merchandise.
“The candy is in a bag, also in a bin, so there’s two layers of protection," said Howlett.
Howlett said, it’s good to be back, because the last few weeks have been hard.
“I’m fortunate to have a secondary job, but my employees don’t, so that’s heartbreaking, because I know that they’re not getting paid," said Howlett.
Looking at new numbers released this week, those employees are the lucky ones. The Labor Department says 14.7% of the workforce are now unemployed nationwide, but amazingly, that spike is actually better than expected.
“It wasn’t as bad as a lot of economists were projecting. I saw numbers coming into today, earlier in the week, of predictions of around 20 percent unemployment," said Dr. Tom Smythe, an Economics Professor at FGCU.
Smythe said that means the Rebound won’t take as long, if everyone follows the CDC guidelines.
“We’ve just got to encourage each other to do it in responsible ways, so that we don’t have setbacks," said Smythe.
Howlett said she’s doing what she can to make sure a setback doesn’t happen, but for now, she’s just glad to be back at her job.
“It was really hard for them, and also for myself, but it’s good to be back," said Howlett.
Dr. Smythe also said that he’s finally seeing several small businesses receive their PPP loans from the federal government. He said that’s just another sign that things might be slowly starting to turn around.