COLUMN: Open for Business
A Guest Column by State Senator Kristina Roegner
April 23, 2020
In the face of an adversary, Americans stand together; we do whatever it takes to not only survive but to thrive. Covid-19 has been no different. Seemingly overnight Americans changed behaviors. The once normal handshake converted into the elbow bump and is now a pleasant nod from a distance. The term “social distancing” is a familiar part of our vernacular and face masks a part of our wardrobe. Students are taking classes online and a large part of our workforce is working from home. Everyone has done their part and sacrificed to try to minimize the impact of this virus and these combined efforts have no doubt contained the spread. After a month of these measures, and as of April 22, Ohio has 14,117 confirmed cases, which might seem like a lot, however when compared to our population of over 11.66 million this is barely 0.12%. Deaths in Ohio from Covid-19 as of April 22 stand at 610; a scant 0.005% of our population. This is indeed great news.
However, these draconian measures came at an incredible economic cost to our society. Nationwide over the last four weeks new unemployment claims totaled over 22 million - a staggering number. Ohio’s unemployment is spiking proportionally. The $2.5 trillion federal stimulus package, has added precariously more to our already bloated national debt and while an extra $600 per month in unemployment might seem generous on the surface, it is concerning that these extra dollars might provide a disincentive for some to return to work once restrictions are lifted and businesses attempt to restart.
It is imperative that we open our economy as soon as possible. Over the course of the last month, we have learned a great deal and can use this knowledge to our advantage as we move forward. We discovered that this virus has “hot spots” which tend to be in the more densely populated urban areas – recognizing this fact – it makes sense for states to open their economy in their less densely populated counties as soon as possible. We could also open urban areas that have not experienced high levels of infection rates. Businesses, that remained open, learned how to do so with new safety protocols in place; businesses that had to close are considering innovative ways to do the same as they reopen. We are putting into practice what we always knew was right: wash our hands for 20 seconds, stay home if you are sick and cover your mouth if you cough or sneeze. Perhaps we have become a nation of “germaphobes”, but that culture of good hygiene will prevent the spread of Covid-19 as well as influenza A&B and a myriad of other contagions. We learned that those who are most at risk are the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, therefore it is those people, if they so choose, who should be kept at a safe distance; NOT the young, the healthy the productive. We have to allow and indeed encourage those who can work to get back to work.
It is heartening to see President Trump outline his 3-Phase approach to “Opening Up America Again”, one that encourages governors to restart the shuttered economy in their respective states with a thoughtful data driven approach. Restarting areas that have low rates of Covid-19 transmission even before May 1 makes sense.
Here in the Buckeye state Governor DeWine’s executive orders were meant only to flatten the curve in order to prevent our medical facilities from being inundated with coronavirus hospitalizations. In that respect, it was successful. The curve has been flattened and Ohio will not come close to exceeding its capacity to care for its citizens. It is now time to let Ohioans and Ohio businesses get back to work. We should allow ALL businesses to come up with their own unique and innovative ways to accomplish the recommended safety guidelines and permit this to happen as soon as possible at a local county level. The small business community is nimble, flexible, and innovative with an ability to think creatively and turn challenges into opportunities. Americans are adaptive, smart and resilient, and just as we overcame previous challenges from the polio epidemic to the terrorist attacks of 9/11, unleash American innovation, and we will emerge stronger than ever before.