I write this letter with a mix of both concern and determination, coupled with a Call to Action.
Nationally, statewide and in our own County, concerns over the growing number of COVID cases is palpable, with recent trends only adding to the angst. We simply can not sit back and hope for the best. Action is required at all levels.
And, while people can differ on strategies and philosophies, the one thing I am confident we can all agree on is that we do not want to see another business shut-down. On a whole host of levels, we should all be able to appreciate the devastating effect a shut-down would have on jobs, business, social service organizations, schools, entrepreneurs and, to state the obvious, our economy as a whole. Again, no one that I am aware of wants a shutdown.
Yet, such a promise won’t just be given to us. COVID case loads are rising. Hospitalizations are rising. And, as we enter winter our indoor behavior is even more conducive to the virus’s spread.
Fact is, if we want to ensure we can all “stay open,” we will have to work for it. Yet it is work that will ensure we are all better off. In that regard, I believe, business can lead the way in so many ways to ensure that our community remains safe and our economy remains open.
What follows are some simple tips on how you can do your part to promote our County’s health and open economy:
*By now, you’ve all heard the guidance: wear a mask; stay socially distanced from one another; wash your hands; stay at home if you are sick or were exposed to someone who is sick; and get some sleep. These practices are proven to work. Period. Full stop. Yet 100% compliance remains elusive and provides the virus with ample opportunity to spread. Please promote and enforce these simple behaviors in your workplace and among your workforce. Do all you can to resist “mask fatigue” – it’s more important now than ever;
*Get a flu shot. And promote flu shots within the workplace and with all co-workers/employees. With hospitalizations being one of the greatest threats in triggering a potential shut-down, we have to do all we can to ensure everyone stays healthy in every way possible. Combatting the flu helps our health systems focus on treating the virus. Please promote flu shots throughout your workforce and, where possible, find ways to make it as easy as possible by considering providing vouchers and/or arranging to have them administered in the workplace. As an added incentive to promote flu shots, it is worth noting that a recent study from the American Board of Family Medicine suggest that flu shots may actually reduce severe COVID-19 risk and lessen the need for hospitalization;
*Create safe spaces. Double-down on your efforts to ensure safe spaces in the workplace and enforce appropriate behavior within those spaces. Frankly, one person flaunting the rules can create a chain of nightmares for your company wherein everyone will could be impacted. Related to that, you might also want to promote the use of the state Department of Public Health COVID-tracking app, COVID ALERTPA. This app can serve as a tremendous early warning system for people in the event they are exposed to someone with the virus;
*Understand the guidance. Admittedly to the point of frustration at times, the CDC and the state are continuously changing their guidance on protocols, quarantine procedures and other virus-related concerns/threats. However, it’s largely because we continue to learn more about the virus as time goes on and, as such, guidance adjusts based on the latest science. None-the-less, please be sure your workplace remains up-to-date with the latest guidance by checking in with the websites of the CDC, the state Department of Health, and a newly-revised landing page on the Lancaster Chamber’s website. Of particular note are the rules around quarantining. Proactively and fully understanding them is the first step toward ensuring your business can stop the spread and ensure continued operations;
*Be sensitive to mental health concerns. With winter and shorter days looming, with cases increasing along with anxiety levels and with traditional holiday plans in flux for most Lancastrians, now is the time to be particularly sensitive to the mental health needs of your workforce. If you have an Employee Assistance Program, please remind your workforce about it; if you can find ways to reduce stress in the workplace through “fun” and/or educational (yet safe!) activities or contests, now is the time to implement; and if you can be vigilant in celebrating good work, monitoring workplace attitudes and being aware of individual situations, now is the time to make this a priority. While you’re at it, be sure to take care of yourself too. Eat right, get exercise, sleep and find ways to focus on the things you enjoy;
*Think Local! For the past ten years, the Lancaster Chamber has been advocating the benefits of “thinking local” for your business and personal purchases. It is more critical now than ever! For all of you who are doing your part to practice safe protocols and still ask, “What else can I/we do to help?” the answer is simple. The single best way your business can help beyond being safe is to prioritize local companies for all your purchases – business services, business products and, with the holidays fast approaching, ALL of your personal shopping (and donations to local nonprofits via the November 20th’s Extraordinary Give!). Simply put, spending your money locally is the second-best thing (after the health-related protocols above) you can do to ensure we get to the other side of this pandemic. It will both keep our local businesses in tact and it will minimize the economic consequences of this virus. Please do your part to prioritize this part of the “protocols” in managing the impact of the pandemic; and,
*Lastly, be a role model. By practicing all of the above, we will not only bring about a safer and healthier community, we will also inspire others to join us in the cause. Stick up for your rights to practice safe behavior; promote your behavior and best practices to others (we welcome any and all of your “best practice” examples!); and, whatever you do, don’t let your guard down “just-this-once.”
For the record, I join all of you in being anxious at the moment. At times it seems as if things are spinning out of control and the thought of a set-back is demoralizing.
Yet, when I take a step back from the immediacy of the moment and the latest headlines, I am heartened by the reality that progress continues with both guidance and a vaccine. And, if we follow the guidance we are being given, there is a path toward getting through this. Together.
It is incumbent upon the business community to grab ahold of this situation and show leadership for the betterment of your organization, your workforce and our County. I am fully confident we will rise to the occasion. Please know, the Lancaster Chamber is here to help.
Be safe. Be determined. And be hopeful.
-Tom Baldrige, President & CEO of the Lancaster Chamber