It’s Time to Give California Workers and Businesses a Plan for Reopening the Economy

April 16, 2020 Updated: April 16, 2020

Commentary

Despite the size and density of the state’s metro areas, California has clearly benefited from the January closure of travel from China and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s early action to delay and reduce the spread of COVID-19, thereby avoiding overwhelming our health-care system and drastically reducing the projected death toll.

We recognize the aggressive efforts of the governor, in collaboration with the federal government, to ensure that California has the resources necessary to treat those infected, and ultimately save lives. However, with each passing day, it becomes clearer that the original statistical models driving these drastic measures substantially overstated the risks.

We applaud the governor’s general announcement on April 13 of a three-state “pact” focused on reopening the California economy. In his announcement, the governor stated any decision to reopen the economy will be based on data and not politics. This approach is the right one, but California’s workers and businesses deserve more details, more transparency, and greater urgency on the economy.

The cost of the fight against COVID-19 in California has been devastating to workers and business. More than 2 million Californians are now jobless, and tens of thousands of “nonessential” businesses are closed and in jeopardy of failure, and the numbers rise daily.

Businesses and their employees are struggling in the face of immense uncertainty. “When will a plan be unveiled?” “Who specifically is dedicated to developing the state’s economic recovery plan?” “What specifically will it take for the governor to reopen the economy?” “How might business be conducted differently in the short term?” These are some of the questions Californians are rightfully asking and that urgently need answering.

Gov. Newsom also announced “six indicators” for modifying the stay-at-home order. We ask that the governor report on the progress on these indicators frequently, if not daily. These indicators do not address how or what an economic reopening will look like or give timing estimates.

We all recognize that the status quo is not economically or socially sustainable in a long-term scenario. The strain of economic devastation and curtailed civil liberties could one day soon become untenable.

California workers and businesses deserve a plan in a matter of days, not weeks.

While enormous energy and focus has been dedicated to stopping COVID-19, an equal amount of energy and focus needs to be dedicated to saving the California economy and getting large swaths of our economy back to work in a matter of weeks. The urgency of this cannot be overstated. We also acknowledge that these decisions are extremely difficult and not without risk.

There are many possible approaches to include targeted sheltering orders and gradual business reopening, as advocated in several European countries and a few states.

This California task force must be fully transparent and provide the specific modeling and metrics context the governor would require to begin the rollout of the economic recovery plan. Special and urgent planning needs to focus on the devastated but critical hospitality, restaurant, and retail industries.

Again, we strongly urge the governor to focus on economic recovery with as much intensity as he has focused on disease prevention. We encourage the governor to consider and use every tool he has at his disposal to strategically support California businesses and workers.

We also urgently request the governor to empower more people to work independently from home by suspending the anti-jobs legislation known as AB5, action he could take risk free tomorrow.

California is winning the battle against COVID-19 but urgently needs a plan to reopen our economy in the short term—or our victory over the disease could quite possibly become a catastrophic “Pyrrhic victory.”

We offer Gov. Newsom our full support in this effort.

John Warner is president of The Lincoln Club of Orange County.

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Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.