As we enter week 9 of Sheltering-in-Place, I am hopeful of the conversations trending.  As a community, we have sacrificed and successfully flattened the curve.  Let’s pause a moment and appreciate incremental successes where they occur:  We have successfully flattened the curve and saved lives.  However, this pandemic is not over and our approach to navigating this next year requires more refinement.  I give our local leaders, particularly Supervisors Rabbitt and Hopkins, credit for acknowledging the need to re-engage the business community in a more sophisticated, safe, and responsible manner.  While we have all sacrificed, the sacrifice has been unequally pinned on one’s participation in “essential vs. non-essential” sectors.  For some, the SIP disruption entailed learning to work together remotely.  For others, the health ordinances forced layoffs, shut down revenue, bankrupted businesses, and left families penniless.  We in Sonoma County must find that proven strength we have coming together as a community and supporting each other now more than ever.

 

It is so important to see the conversation moving beyond the concept of pitting “health vs. economy” in our pandemic decision making.  The fact is we need both.  Hundreds of studies show that food insecurity, housing insecurity, economic insecurity is directly correlated with greater risk to mental health, domestic abuse, and medical health issues.   Current national unemployment rates have hit 14.7% and are projected by the white house economic advisor to hit near 20% by the end of this month.  According to the New York Times, nearly one half of our adult population is jobless.  Closer to home, Redwood Empire Food Bank has estimated that they are helping to provide food for 1 in every 3 Sonoma County residents during this COVID-19 pandemic.  Without a healthy economy, it is very difficult to have a healthy community.

 

We must provide businesses the opportunity to create operational modifications addressing employee safety and consumer safety.   America’s economic heart is founded on the ingenuity of its business leaders.  While government’s heavy-handed approach may have been necessary at the headwaters of the pandemic, it is wisely moving towards establishing the framework of safety measures and the structure of monitoring.  Let individual businesses creatively rise to the challenge of meeting these regulations.   It is in everyone’s interest to find a successful equilibrium.  An increased breakout of the virus risks lives and would lead us back into the sheltering extremes.

 

We are all painfully aware that this is not about returning to “normal”.  We are still knee deep in this pandemic.  In the governor’s multi-stage process, we have moved into the realm of learning to function in parallel with the virus threat.  Information is a key factor in our ability to navigate.  We hope you have been finding valuable insight from our panelists in our virtual Alliance General Membership Meetings.  We hope the resources on our website and communications from our executive director have been useful as well.  We ask that you consider how you can contribute to our local community and support our fellow local businesses.  We are in leg #2 of a long journey.  Thanks for hanging in there!