October 29, 2020
When the coronavirus pandemic first struck in March, we all faced a great deal of uncertainty. There was no precedent or playbook for a situation such as this, nor could leaders and communities predict how the coming months would unfold.
Now, months into the pandemic, we no longer need a crystal ball to predict the course of the virus or its impact. Rather, we can reflect on past experiences and current data to keep America safe and open. In conversation with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, community leaders share their insights on the road to recovery.
Europe’s COVID-19 Response Provides Valuable Lessons for America’s Recovery
When looking at Europe’s response to COVID-19, we can find valuable information about how our country can recover, both with respect to public health and the economy. Marjorie Chorlins, Senior Vice President of European Affairs for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, noted how different countries took different approaches to shutdowns.
She noted that countries such as Italy, who quickly imposed restrictions, saw a lesser impact than those who had waited longer or eased restrictions too early, such as the United Kingdom. Those with lax rules have had to tighten restrictions significantly in order to mitigate rising case numbers.
However, Chorlins emphasized that “total lockdowns need not be inevitable.” Rather, she encouraged federal and state/local officials to coordinate their efforts in implementing strict defenses: mask-wearing, social distancing and handwashing.
Businesses Must Instill Confidence in Their Communities
People are understandably concerned about the economic impact of another shutdown. Fortunately, businesses can play a key role in keeping the economy open while also maintaining safety.
Suzanne Clark, President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, advised that businesses do everything they can right now to instill confidence in their communities. Limiting the number of in-office employees, adding social distancing markers and increasing cleaning protocols are all ways companies can demonstrate their commitment to public health.
“Everything that businesses can do right now to instill confidence in their communities, that it's okay to be out as long as you’re following these rules and guidelines, will also help the economic shutdown part,” she added.
This Year, Flu Shots Are More Vital to Public Health Than Ever Before
Although the flu shot has always been recommended as a public health measure, it’s more vital than ever this year in the fight against COVID.
According to Steve Anderson, President and CEO of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, over half a million people were hospitalized for the flu last season.
“If we have those same numbers at the same time, we have this tremendous increase in the number of COVID cases, it will put an undue burden on an already exhausted and fatigued healthcare system,” he explained. “At the same time, if your immune system is compromised because of the flu and you’re exposed to COVID, that’s a real problem.”
He recommended that all able individuals get a flu shot, which can be done for free at many local pharmacies.
Community Leaders Play a Key Role in Helping America Turn the Corner
Neil Bradley, Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, closed the event with the three major lessons learned from the coronavirus pandemic.
Bradley first recommended that businesses encourage and facilitate their employees getting a flu shot to avoid the spread of the flu this season. He also emphasized that implementing and enforcing policies such as mask wearing would be necessary to prevent another lockdown. Finally, he encouraged community leaders to plan ahead with local officials to keep the country open and safe.
“This can either be a light switch or a dial,” Bradley said of coronavirus shutdown measures. “A light switch was catastrophic for small businesses and families all across the country this spring.”
However, by using a targeted and phased approach, he believes that the United States can “turn the corner, both in our economy and our public health.”