My op-ed about opening non-essential businesses if they can operate safely was printed in the May 14 edition of Peoria Journal Star.
Check it out, and let me know what you think.
The op-ed has also been copied from the May 14 edition of the Peoria Journal Star, and is included below.
Commentary: Open non-essential businesses if they can operate safely
By State Sen. Chuck Weaver
Posted May 14, 2020 at 1:52 PM
In the COVID-19 battle, the discussion of opening our state was initially one of lives versus the economy.
That was the proper initial focus, however going forward, those two objectives are not mutually exclusive, and our focus must change.
This is no judgment of past decisions that had to be made, based on limited data, regarding the new reality we suddenly faced. Initially, leaders properly focused on the availability of essential services to meet the basic needs of our people.
Until we gained new data and flattened the curve so health care could be ensured, “essential services” was the proper guideline. Regretfully, that guideline by nature was dangerous in some cases, but necessary to provide for our survival. Difficult decisions were made.
Today the standard must prioritize “safety,” regardless of how essential a service may be. If a non-essential service can be provided safely and provide jobs at the same time, it needs to be allowed. The guideline of essential services served its purpose but no longer can be considered the overriding consideration. Operating safely must now become the overriding guideline.
The original focus on essential services gave us the time to flatten the curve and learn from new data over the past two months, but it is also gave us time to learn the behavioral changes needed by our society, such as people being vastly more vigilant about regularly washing their hands, using hand sanitizer frequently, not touching their face, wiping down surfaces, staying 6 feet from others, and more recently, wearing masks in public.
Government led the initial essential services focus but it is now up to all of us to lead the safety in commerce focus and along with that, collective and individual accountability. We need:
* Accountability of business owners to train and equip their employees and their customers to operate safely.
* Accountability of the government to provide more clarity with more relevant data and with transparency and scientific integrity of that data. Specifically, we need to understand pre-existing conditions better.
* Accountability of each of us for our own health and for others with the co-morbidities that cause most of the COVID-19 deaths. We all must consider the friends of our friends with immune deficiencies; the people we may never touch but may become ill through mutual contact of a third party.
The fight against this pandemic has brought an unbearable burden on some workers. While most people have continued to receive income, tens of millions of hourly workers and small business owners don’t know where they will get money to eat in the coming weeks. Social justice demands that we get past rigid bureaucratic hurdles to help these people when they step up with plans to operate their businesses safely no matter their industry classification.
I have taken this turn toward strongly favoring allowing the non-essential businesses that are able to operate safely because of the massive number of employers who have contacted me. They have plans to meet social distancing requirements and a range of other safety measures ready to be fully implemented.
It is time to focus not on what is essential but on what can sustain public adherence to this fight. Then, if business plans can incorporate those scientific safety needs they need to be allowed to open as soon as they implement safer ways of operating those businesses.
Scientific data has evolved since the initial onset of this epidemic but government has not kept pace.
Based on my in-depth conversations with a wide range of small business owners, I have urged them to send letters to the editor so our public dialogue and public support of good plans can move our elected officials to make the right decisions in these next phases. I asked them to share their unique situations and plans to safely operate. The public must understand the passion and wisdom of these business owners to serve us safely.
I am convinced what should guide us going forward is this: what can be opened and operated safely should be opened, even if it not deemed as essential.
State Sen. Chuck Weaver serves the 37th District, which includes Peoria.