Guest column: Shame on us, Colorado.  Saving lives and our economy should not be this hard.

Shame on us, Colorado, for not working proactively with public health departments to ensure that businesses, municipalities and schools had the resources available to them to weather this pandemic safely.

Shame on us, Colorado, for not emphasizing the benefits of proactive testing and failing to create access to quick testing results so that businesses could minimize lost revenue and schools and municipalities could avoid disruption.

Heidi Hostetter

Shame on us, Colorado, for not providing help regarding the rules and regulations that need to be adhered to in order to ensure that a facility is safe for employees, customers, students, teachers and the community. 

Shame on us, Colorado, for failing to provide clear understanding about how to handle an outbreak via contact tracing and what to do and where to go.  

Things do not have to be this way.  There are answers.

For starters, what if we took the strategic fund that resides at OEDIT [Office of Economic Development and International Trade], which provides incentives to businesses from outside of Colorado to bring jobs to Colorado ($3,500 per employee over a five-year period) and, instead, used the money to promote growth within Colorado by giving Colorado businesses the incentives?  

Or, could we create a tax rebate over the next 24 months for COVID safety services and proactive testing that would encourage our community to invest in its safety?

Or, perhaps, we could take an already existing piece of legislation related to funding retention and infrastructure for early stage businesses and fund products and services that assist with issues related to the pandemic such as helping businesses to pivot should they need to do so to stay in business.

These are just a few ideas.  And, there are more.  The COVID Safety System and Certification program is another.  We, the Colorado Manufacturer’s COVID Task Force, a group of volunteers, created the Safety System.  

What is it?  

We sorted through public health regulations — federal/CDC, state and local —  with our public health brethren and figured out which apply where so that our community and businesses can understand.  

We then built the capability to send people into businesses, schools and county buildings to advise them regarding how to bring their facilities into COVID safety compliance and how to maintain that so that people stay healthy and safe.  

Then, when a facility was brought into compliance, we certified them (and recertified them every eight weeks) so that legal liability was mitigated, something we heard from businesses is really important. 

There is a combination that works to keep our communities safe and our economy stable as we weather this pandemic, and it’s simple: proactive testing and the COVID Safety and Certification System.  Those of us who have employed this combination can tell you that it works.  

Mina Cox, chief operating officer from Specialty Products Co., told us this: “Even though we work hard to follow all the guidelines, we wanted validation as well as additional ideas to protect our employees. Therefore, we conducted the COVID Safety System and Certification.  As employers it is imperative we do everything that is feasible to protect our employees. Bringing in experts to guide us through an ever changing pandemic is a key way to quickly understand what to do. We also enrolled in Colorado COVID Check.”

I thought that a pandemic and people dying would inspire us to unite, put public safety at the forefront and enable public/private partnerships to thrive to stay ahead of COVID but, unfortunately, It seems I was wrong.  Our state has a COVID infection rate at more than 7.5% over the last week.  Shame on us, Colorado.  

Hope is not a strategy.  We need a real plan, focused on testing and facility safety.  We can help.  Let’s do this.  

Heidi Hostetter is an executive in the manufacturing sector and the leader of the Colorado Manufacturer’s COVID Task Force.