The ball’s in our court

The policies adopted by Gov. Doug Ducey and his administration during the outbreak of Covid-19 have prevented Arizona’s health care system from being overwhelmed and have kept most of the state’s economy open. Although we’ve still lost north of 500,000 jobs, thanks to the public’s cooperation and collaboration we’re now in Phase 1 of the economic recovery and, step by step, we’re reenergizing. 

As Gov. Ducey said in recent press conference, this new phase “is a green light to continue going forward on the way out of this pandemic. Now, this is not a green light to speed. This is a green light to proceed with caution.”

If we want to preserve the progress we’ve made and not backslide toward more infections and overstressed hospitals and risk more business closures, then we’ll all have to adhere to heightened protocols and demonstrate a commitment to responsibly protect ourselves and our fellow Arizonans.

It’s the least we can do.

The Arizona business community is deeply invested in this effort. No business wants to compromise the health of its employees, its customers, or the public, or jeopardize a broader economic reopening.

One of these protocols will include wearing masks in a variety of settings.

Already some brand name big-box retailers, which remained open during the original stay-at-home order since their continued operation was deemed essential, have announced that wearing masks will be required to enter their premises. Other retailers, which have been reopening since getting the May 8 go-ahead from Gov. Ducey, have similarly announced that they’ll require customers to wear masks.

I’ve heard the grumbling, and I get it. Wearing masks isn’t terribly comfortable, and it takes some getting used to. I received plenty of good-natured but deserved ribbing for a photo I posted on social media of yours truly at a special event with President Trump at Honeywell that showed me wearing my mask incorrectly. Over the nose next time! But businesses that are adopting policies to prevent the spread of the virus deserve our applause. They’re demonstrating a genuine concern not only for their own business, but for you, me, and the rest of Arizona.

Another protocol we’ll have to adhere to is the continued practice of physical distancing in retail establishments, dine-in restaurants, and other businesses as they welcome back customers.

Things like one-way aisles in grocery stores and tables appropriately spaced in restaurants will likely be the norm for the near future, as will new check-in procedures at restaurants where before you just grabbed an available table. And don’t be surprised if your hands get a squirt of sanitizer before you’re seated. Some businesses may ask for temperature checks.

If these minor accommodations are what it takes to protect public health and build consumer confidence to get the Arizona economy back into gear and to get tens of thousands of Arizonans back to work (and give others in vulnerable populations a chance to get a long overdue haircut as we advance phases in the reopening), then let’s do it. 

I’m encouraged that the vast majority of the feedback I’m getting is how restaurants, smaller retailers, and barbers and salons are being innovative in the steps they’re taking to protect workers and customers.

Now, not every business and customer will comply. We’ve all seen the pictures of a few places that look mostly like they did pre-pandemic. But hopefully whatever criticism they incur from the public will convince them to change their behavior.

Gov. Ducey throughout this period has wisely and prudently pursued a lighter touch than some other governors during the pandemic, and he has no desire to throw the book at anyone and disrupt any businesses any more than it already has been. A little social pressure and some education in these cases can go a long way.

The news over the last few months has been bleak, but Arizona’s has earned its share of positive headlines.

We’re in the midst of a testing blitz that has dramatically increased the number of tests given in just a few weeks. Maricopa County has undertaken a massive contact tracing effort. Honeywell is churning out millions of N95 masks as it adds 500 manufacturing jobs in the Valley. Professional sports have gotten the ok to resume games here when the leagues start up again. Hotel pools are open again. Zoom, whose video conference software has been indispensable as many of us work from home, announced it is bringing hundreds of jobs here. And, surprising everyone except the outstanding Arizona Commerce Authority team, Taiwan’s TSMC — a global semiconductor powerhouse — made international news with its plans to bring 1,600 jobs to Arizona as part of a $12 billion investment in the state.

So, the ball’s in our court. We can sustain the progress we’ve achieved, continue to control the spread of the virus, and ensure that our economy returns stronger. But it’s up to all of us to act smartly and responsibly.

Glenn Hamer is president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. 

Glenn Hamer

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