Inside the Chamber: May 21, 2020
Lives or Livelihoods? Both.
The dichotomy between public health and economic health, I believe, will go down in history as the most divisive debate of the century. Restarting the economy to protect livelihoods is being placed in direct competition with protecting lives from this highly contagious and at times, fatal disease. Coronavirus-19 has wreaked havoc and caused major damage, some of which is irreparable. Too many lives have been taken, too many people have fallen ill, too many people have suffered loss of loved ones, too many businesses have suffered severe losses, too many hardworking Americans have lost their jobs and too many business owners have been forced to make the difficult decision to close their doors for good.
Is either side wrong? No, but neither is fully right. Public health and economic health are dependent on one another, completely intertwined, and cannot be separated. Government mandated stay at home orders and forced business closures aren’t sustainable, but neither is returning to completely pre-pandemic normal for some foreseeable future.
I’ve heard and read quotes from elected officials and others that have stated that navigating the pandemic has been a matter of “lives versus dollars”. They’ve stated that “they don’t understand how anyone could be advocating for the dollars end of the equation”. This perspective lacks needed empathy and insinuates that the sole motivation for business is wealth. This is short-sighted and so far from the perspective I have the privilege of knowing very intimately from my vantage point.
From the other camp, I’ve heard people say they are just “over it”. They don’t want to wear a face covering, refuse to honor safe distance and “just want to enjoy all the things” in the way they did prior to this pandemic. Truth is, this virus will live on among us and wreak havoc until there is a vaccine or a divine miracle occurs. Your health and the health of others will be compromised if you refuse to adapt to a “new normal.” To get through this, we are all going to have to “sacrifice a little self” for the benefit of our neighbors.
If you find yourself too far in one corner or the other, I urge you empathetically consider the other side’s perspective. Do you view them as a “greedy business owner” just trying to make a buck? Consider this --- Those serving you are moms, dads, sons, daughters & caregivers. They depend on that job to keep a roof over their head and food on the table. The owner, he’s really a nice guy chasing his dreams of enhancing the lives around him. He pulls 15 hour days, compensating his valued employees well above average, while pouring his own distribution back into the business just to keep it going. He adds flair and vibrancy to our community and maybe you didn’t realize it, but he just welcomed a new baby into his home.
It’s really a matter of lives versus lives. The health and well-being of all people is paramount. Economic health is essential for our individuals, families, businesses and communities to survive and thrive. Businesses are created and thrive due to people, whether you are an owner or a valued team member or a local patron. I have the privilege of working with and for hundreds of businesses every day who don’t want to just open….they want to open safely. They are taking measures to implement new policies and practices that prioritize the lives of their employees and their customers. Economic health and public health can co-exist if we all do our part to help minimize the devastating impact of this crisis. Wear. Wait. Wash. Take a daily dose of empathy and patience. And support everything local.
To see a full list of businesses who have made the commitment to being “Open & Safe” by following CDC & NCDHHS safe opening guidance, visit www.catawbachamber.org/openandsafe.