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Lockdowns lifted, let businesses do what they do best: innovate

After a long and grueling year dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems that at long last there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

As new cases of the virus drop in California and across the country, coupled with the ongoing rollout of life-saving vaccines, we seem to be well on our way back to normal life.

Recently, Gov. Gavin Newsom lifted the latest statewide stay-at-home order, enabling struggling businesses to safely reopen and putting Californians back to work.

It is absolutely critical that our state’s businesses be allowed to remain open with proper distancing and safety measures in place, because any future lockdowns could spell ruin.

Right now, California’s economy is reeling. In the Central Valley, the average unemployment rate at the end of 2020 was the highest we’ve seen in years: Fresno County’s average was 11.3 percent, Kings County was 11.7 percent, and Tulare County’s was 13.6 percent, and the list goes on.

Those numbers represent millions of people struggling to pay the bills and provide for their families.

Not only that, lockdowns disproportionately affected communities that are already marginalized in our society.

According to a pre-COVID Bureau of Labor Statics report, Black and Latino workers are far less likely than other communities to hold jobs that can work remotely.

As a result, Black and Latino communities have borne the brunt of the economic downturn, in addition to facing higher rates of COVID-19 infection than other communities.

While lockdowns were absolutely necessary to protect public health, the human cost they bring with them cannot be ignored. With businesses reopening, we can start to repair the economic damage done to so many communities and ease the suffering of so many Californians. 

Many people understandably worry that reopening businesses could cause a resurgence in the virus and force us to lock back down again.

This is a valid concern, which is why it is absolutely critical that we continue following the advice and guidance of public health experts to ensure that doesn’t happen.

Fortunately, businesses are much better prepared to face this threat today than when this crisis began last year. Walk into any store, shop, or business, and you are likely to see a variety of safety measures in place that prevent viral transmission: universal mask usage, distancing protocols, cleaning products, occupancy limits.

These measures are proven to prevent the spread of the virus and keep people safe.

In addition, our country is better equipped to beat COVID-19 once and for all. The two FDA-approved vaccines are being distributed throughout our communities at this moment.

We’re averaging more than a million shots per day, meaning we will not only reach President Biden’s original goal of 100 million shots in 100 days – we may exceed it.

Also, the Biden Administration recently announced the purchase of 200 million additional doses of COVID vaccines, enough to inoculate every American by the end of the summer. 

With the end of the pandemic hopefully near, we need to start preparing to rebuild when that time comes. That means ensuring working Americans have a steady paycheck and that every community has a fair shot at a good job.

By allowing business to safely reopen under proper health guidelines, we can ensure that California will bounce back from this rough period stronger than it was before.

Joe Denham
Joe Denham is the Board Chairman of the Fresno Chamber of Commerce and Chief Executive Officer for Denham Resources.