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At a press conference this morning, U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue urged businesses and the public not to overreact to the spread of coronavirus but to take reasonable precautions while going about their lives.
“Now is not the time to panic. Fear and panic undermine our ability to contain the virus, minimize disruptions to daily life, and keep our economy humming along,” Donohue said. “Americans should continue to monitor the situation, but feel confident as they go about their daily lives, head to work, conduct meetings, or drop their children off at school.”
Donohue said that the U.S. Chamber would be leading by example and conducting business as usual while making a few prudent changes.
“What we are telling our members is the same advice we are following ourselves: be prudent and be prepared, but don’t overreact,” Donohue said. “The Chamber will continue to hold meetings and events to support the important work of our members.”
Donohue said that U.S. Chamber staff are not travelling internationally to areas where travel bans are in effect, but are continuing to conduct businesses in countries that are not considered high risk. He added that domestic work is continuing as usual, but if the government’s medical advice changed, the Chamber would follow suit.
“We should be guided by facts and advice from medical experts and the federal, state, and local officials who are dealing with the situation.” Donohue said.
Executives from the travel, hotel, and retail industries joined Donohue on stage and had the same message: listen to health experts, take reasonable precautions, and do not overreact.
Roger Dow, president of the U.S. Travel Association, noted that spring is a prime travel time for spring break, conventions and trade shows, and family vacations—and that Americans should not change their domestic travel plans.
“There are no current warnings for travel in the United States,” Dow said. “It’s reasonable…that Americans might question if it’s safe to travel, but they should continue with their upcoming travel plans. At present, with proper health practices in place, there is no official guidance whatsoever that travel within the U.S. should be curtailed or cancelled.”
President and CEO of the American Hotel and Lodging Association Chip Rogers said that people should not make travel decisions based on unnecessary fears.
“The guidelines from the CDC…deal a lot with what precautions you can take. The hotel industry has been living up to those standards for a long time. Well before this. We’ve gone beyond those standards this time, adding additional cleaning to hotels,” Rogers said. “Spring break is coming up, millions of Americans should not be putting off those plans out of fear.”
As for ongoing economic impacts, Chief Administrative Officer and General Counsel of the National Retail Federation Stephanie Martz, said that at this time she saw only a short-term impact from the virus.
“We’re coming off of a strong era of growth…We [the NRF] are expecting more of the same healthy growth if not a little bit higher, for the coming year,” Martz said. “We don’t think this situation is going to pose any lasting, long-term negative effect on our industry or on other industries…It’s irresponsible to speculate, and certainly to speculate negatively, at this point.”
One simple piece of advice, among others, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): employees should stay home when they are sick. Rogers said he saw this in action in his industry.
“If someone doesn’t feel well, every single hotel company that I’m aware of, has similar policies that say: ‘Stay home,’” Rogers said. “That message continues today. The good thing is there’s heightened awareness now.”
Several of the executives at the event shared their future travel plans. Dow said he was moving ahead with his travel plans based on expert advice.
“I myself am following what the health officials say,” Dow said. “And traveling by air this week and next week to five different cities. I got my boarding pass right here. My family and I are going to Florida and we’re going to travel and keep traveling.”
The U.S. Chamber has a resource page on the coronavirus and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation published two guides about how employers and employees can prepare for and respond to the virus: