A local newspaper reporter called me the other day and asked what I thought about the new COVID-19 restrictions. My response, “I don’t like it; I know the public health officials don’t like it, but the best available evidence tells us that’s the best way to help us to get back to a place where we’re in a much less dangerous and health-impacting situation.” To that I add, if you’re not taking personal responsibility in the fight against this virus, then you’re only exacerbating a terrible situation.
Listen, I get a lot of emails these days that suggest the Boulder Chamber should take the lead in pushing back against our public health officials and the governor. They note, accurately, that many businesses will literally close their doors forever due to yet another demand that they suspend indoor dining, end personal services, or limit entrance capacity. Many have. The personal consequences for the business owners and workforce are tragic.
And the Boulder Chamber does object when we sense there is overreach in public health restrictions. State and local authorities have heard our calls for more precision in their mandates, which is how we’ve kept gyms operating, left the doors open for our retailers, kept personal services operating and avoided the suspension of real estate activities, as just a few examples. Further, we’ve made sure truly essential businesses receive permission to conduct their critical work.
We’ve also pioneered efforts with city leaders, along with our business support partners, like the Boulder CVB, the Downtown Boulder Partnership, the SBDC, and the Latino Chamber, to help soften the blow of public health restrictions. Finding ways to reduce restaurant delivery fees, identifying low cost PPE materials, encouraging local retail shopping and securing grant assistance are all part of the relentless goal of saving our small businesses. We will continue to innovate to meet their needs.
Still, businesses are suffering as we watch them lose their fight for viability in the face of compounding COVID-19 response measures. As I often note, the closing of every business in our community is a blow to our economy and quality of life. Lest we ever forget, too, there is the toll it takes on individual business leaders and their staff teams. So why perpetuate this business carnage with further restrictions? It’s about math and human suffering.
While some have compared the COVID-19 health threat to a typical bout with the flu, that comparison disregards the scientific evidence. According to the World Health Organization: “While the true mortality of COVID-19 will take some time to fully understand, the data we have so far indicate that the crude mortality ratio (the number of reported deaths divided by the reported cases) is between 3-4% … For seasonal influenza, mortality is usually well below 0.1%.” That explains why our hospitalization rates are skyrocketing along with infection rates.
Of course, few things carry this message home like personal exposure. I was shocked the other day when I came upon the story of an acquaintance who served as an example by Gov. Polis of the ravaging impacts of COVID-19 on an otherwise healthy woman. Then, just last night, I learned of a relatively young colleague who has been on a ventilator for the past three weeks. There is great concern he will not pull through.
Where does that leave us then if, like me, “I don’t like it”?
There is evidence that the protective procedures businesses follow are effective at controlling spread of the virus. Most new infections, in fact, are attributed to personal social interactions, inside and outside of local businesses, not transmissions among employees and customers within the workplace. That means the fate of our beloved gyms, restaurants, retailers and personal services, let alone the health of our families, friends and neighbors, are in our own washed hands, covered faces and social distance. The public health data indicates that we’ve let our guard down.
The fight against this virus is trying our patience and, with promising results of recent vaccine trials providing hopeful light at the end of this long tunnel, it’s easy to get complacent. Don’t. As Dr. Anthony Fauci said, the vaccines aren’t “going to be a light switch” back to normalcy. Meanwhile, COVID-19 continues to unleash its destructive forces. That is why we need everyone to do their part and act responsibly. The sooner we can get this virus under control, the sooner we can fully reopen our economy and get back to what we like.
John Tayer is president and CEO of the Boulder Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at 303-442-1044, ext 110 or email@example.com.