Before America can go back to work, essential services like childcare and public transportation need to be restored, according to a recovery plan by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
In addition, businesses will need protection against lawsuits because of increased liability, and entertainment venues including bars, restaurants and trade shows will need public assistance.
“The return to work is going to be gradual, it’s going to vary by location, by size, by sector, by the health status of different workers,” U.S. Chamber President Suzanne Clark said during a recent webinar by the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing.
“Businesses are going to face new processes, new requirements, new restrictions and a new playbook,” she said. “There’s no precedent.”
With anti-lockdown protests springing up across the country and in Southern California, when and how society should reopen is a hot topic five weeks after Gov. Gavin Newsom enacted a statewide stay-at-home order.
The lockdown has emptied freeways, shuttered bars and amusement parks and thrown at least 2.8 million Californians out of work.
Local residents and protesters question the need for some or all of the closures. One reader noted, for example, that society doesn’t shut down for risks such as auto fatalities. Death projections are way off base, wrote another.
“It made no sense to close parks and stop children from playing catch,“ added Rick Ganulin of Tustin. “These can open up now, along with golf courses.”
Newsom unveiled his own six-point “Roadmap to Recovery” last week, addressing the need for increased testing, infection prevention and adequate hospital capacity before reopening.
He also announced the formation of an 80-member Task Force on Business and Jobs Recovery, made up of top business and labor leaders, lawmakers and former governors to advise him on how California can get back to work.
But it’s too soon to reopen now while the numbers of deaths, hospitalizations and new cases are still increasing, he said at his daily briefing Tuesday, April 21.
“Practicing physical distancing has worked to keep those numbers relatively modest in terms of growth,” Newsom said. “But if we pull back too quickly, those numbers will go through the roof.”
Essential services needed
Clark, the U.S. chamber president, said people can’t return to work until essential services like childcare and public transportation are reestablished in ways that will prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Daycares, for example, will have to be open for longer hours and take fewer children at a time to continue social distancing, the chamber’s plan said.
Businesses will need staggered work schedules and buses and trains will have to offer increased service to keep passengers from being clustered too closely.
Meanwhile, reopening in a way that prevents COVID-19‘s spread will expose employers to increased liability, the chamber said.
For example, businesses that screen employees and customers for infection could face medical privacy claims. Those that restrict work for older or medically compromised employees could face discrimination lawsuits — or be liable if they return at-risk employees to work too soon.
And if businesses provide facemasks and other protective equipment to their workers, they could get sued if an employee gets sick.
“Are we going to get into a position where we have to temporarily bend some regulations? Do we have to provide legal safe harbor for employers?” Clark asked. “Asking (CEOs) to take risks, we think, will require some protections.”
Lastly, entertainment venues, restaurants, bars, meetings-and-events companies and trade shows “should be provided with bridge assistance“ because they will be unable to continue operating without significant losses, the chamber plan said.
“No family should go bankrupt, no businesses should go under, no industry should be left in ruins because of this pandemic,“ Clark said.