Now that our COVID case numbers have begun to shrink, I hope we will learn valuable lessons by contrasting the draconian measures our state and county have taken to stem the rise of infections – closing down outdoor dining, hair and nail salons, churches, and fitness facilities – with jurisdictions that used a more targeted approach. We need to ask ourselves if California’s measures reduced infection rates and deaths better than states that employed less intrusive steps to fight the virus. We must also ask what it will take to get back to “normal”.
As we know, the “shutdowns” were often unpredictable and confusing for businesses. Restaurants and salons invested in personal protective equipment and hygiene supplies to meet more stringent protocols, and some installed parklets or improved safer outdoor service areas at the cost of several thousand – even tens of thousands – of dollars when allowed to open, only to be quickly closed again at any uptick in regional infections. The moving target of openings and closures created huge impacts on many of our small businesses who had the challenge of scaling up and scaling down quickly while trying to pay for rent and for the safety investments they made.
We also know that many businesses throughout the area have shut their doors permanently since the start of the pandemic – barbershops, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, gyms, and retail stores. In addition, many businesses are saddled with large government loans or months of deferred lease payments they will need to repay.
A Yelp analysis conducted last year showed that for about half of all California businesses forced to close during the pandemic, the closure was permanent. The impact on minority-owned businesses has been particularly hard. A survey done by the Stanford School of Business reported that 86% of Latino-owned businesses reported “immediate negative effects of COVID-19, including loss of revenue, complete closure, loss of clients and client engagement, layoffs, and project delays or postponement.”
Now that things are improving, it’s very important for us to take a look at the statistical science and open our businesses wisely – and permanently. We know that many states have handled this pandemic differently. There have been varying degrees of closures and service changes throughout this country. Many states have allowed businesses to remain open and operate, but with various precautions and capacity limitations.
How do these states compare with California? Some publications have reported on the similarities in outcomes in the number of infections and deaths between California and other states. What sets these comparisons apart is how other states have approached shutdowns. The continuing and revolving shutdowns that California has endured have had little effect on the number of cases and deaths as compared to other states. Those states are experiencing the same levels of per capita decreases in cases that California is currently experiencing.
We need to learn from our mistakes as this virus continues to mutate. Let’s follow the science and approaches other states have taken and open our businesses permanently and smartly. Let’s continue to provide businesses with health guidelines like limiting capacity, requiring masks and gloves, checking for elevated temperatures, using barriers, improving ventilation and hygiene. Let’s not impose more shutdowns that crush not only our economy but the hopes and dreams of our employers and employees.
Businesses want to work, businesses want to serve, and businesses want to employ.
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