Thaddeus Swanek Senior Writer and Editor, Strategic Communications

Published

March 04, 2021

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Fill me in:For this week’s Path Forward U.S. Chamber President and CEO-Elect Suzanne Clark was joined by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee to discuss why the state has been so successful in leveraging the strengths of the private sector to stop the spread of the coronavirus and ramp up vaccination distribution.

Clark was also joined by Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, and Shannon Garcia, senior vice president of U.S. operations at Starbucks, to talk about how their organizations have partnered with the government on rolling out coronavirus vaccines across the state.

The Path Forward is a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation event series designed to help business and community leaders find the answers they need to execute a responsible reopening strategy and plan for a post-pandemic world.

What happened?: The three panelists discussed the importance of the private and public sectors bringing their respective know-how and talents to the table and working together.

Gov. Inslee highlighted some of the successes the state had in lowering infection rates and upping vaccine distribution and credited the business community for being part of that success. He also mentioned the state’s Roadmap to Recovery plan and its statewide coronavirus data dashboard as critical tools the state is using to guide a data-driven reopening plan.

Smith said one of the most important things a business can do as a starting point is to simply ask their public sector partners: “What do you need?” He also stressed Microsoft’s role in partnering with two local hospitals to provide a site for mass vaccinations for the public.

Garcia said that Starbucks employees' expertise in customer service has helped them enhance efficiences in the mass vaccination campaign in the state. She added that facts and data would continue to guide the company's strategy on reopening and mask wearing.

Key quotes:

“We know that business has a critical role to play in this public health effort, and at the U.S. Chamber, we recently launched the Rally for Recovery Commitment, asking businesses to pledge to do their part to protect their employees, customers, and communities and help reignite our economy.” – Suzanne Clark

“Our nation has had a lot to learn from Washington [state] about leveraging the strengths of the private sector in combatting the pandemic.” – Suzanne Clark

“We lost 5,000 Washingtonians in this pandemic and that’s very painful to us…We saved a lot of lives even in the face of our huge loss…and one of the reasons we have been successful is because of that enlightened business leadership.” – Gov. Inslee

“We’ve established a plan to reopen our economy dependent on metrics…We’re data driven and we’re science driven. I think it’s one of the reasons we have succeeded in saving thousands of lives and keeping one of the best economic stories in the country.” – Gov. Inslee

“This is a science-driven plan…We move forward with more economic activity, reopening activity in our restaurants, in our gyms, and in our theaters and the like—dependent on the metrics of performance.” – Gov. Inslee

“We cannot take off our masks. Repeat: We cannot take off our masks! These variants are too transmittable. It is clear that we are experiencing a plateau, or a rise, in these infections right now. And a rush to the exits is just deadly at this moment!” – Gov. Inslee

“In our case, what we have done is partner with two local hospitals. They were able to move all of their vaccination work to our conference center. And then by being here, we were able to work with them to grow their capacity.” – Brad Smith

“We [Microsoft] were willing to pay the vaccinators and the support personnel…It is a $4 million a month cost for Microsoft. But what that does is it takes insurance reimbursement, Medicare, Medicaid out of the cost equation and makes our site particularly well positioned to serve people who are uninsured…We decided this was a place where we could make a difference.” – Brad Smith

“Clearly, we are not experts in healthcare, but we certainly are experts in delivering customer experience…We focused on things like minimizing wait times, increasing efficiencies for the patients.” – Shannon Garcia

“We’ve rooted ourselves in science and facts from the beginning and will continue to do so…As it stands today, facial coverings will continue to be part of our expectation as we think about how we might keep our partners [employees] and customers as safe as possible.” – Shannon Garcia

Our take: Don’t forget—wearing a mask and social distancing make a big difference in the ongoing fight against the coronavirus.

It’s also vital that Americans get vaccinated or have a plan to get vaccinated once supplies become available for their group. The approved vaccines are safe, widely available, and help protect you, your family and others—so make getting one a priority. For more information on COVID-19 vaccination in your area, contact your local health department.

What’s next: Please join future Path Forward events to learn how to better protect you workers, customers, coworkers, and friends from the spread of coronavirus.

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About the authors

Thaddeus Swanek

Senior Writer and Editor, Strategic Communications

Thaddeus is a senior writer and editor with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's strategic communications team.

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