Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Experts agree ... If you care about local business, wear a mask

Bonneville County's 7-day moving average incidence rate this morning was 97.7, one of the highest in the state. Excluding sparsely populated Clearwater County, Madison County leads Idaho with a rate of 151.1.

The following is a column submitted by the Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit America, it devastated our economy. Millions of jobs were lost. Small businesses closed their doors. Domestic retail spending dropped. Industrial production declined. Many of our friends, family members, and neighbors struggled to pay their bills and put food on the table.

Things improved this summer, but we now find ourselves experiencing a spike in cases, locally and across the country. And, once again, the economy is suffering the consequences.

On the day America saw its biggest spike in cases, the Dow dropped hundreds of points. The correlation between the coronavirus and the economy is undeniable.

That is why we are urging all eastern Idahoans to practice COVID-19 safe behaviors: staying home if you are sick, washing your hands, physical distancing from those outside your household, and wearing masks in public places.

Public health experts say wearing a mask is one of the best things we can do to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

It’s important to take these same precautions in the workplace as well as when gathering with extended family and friends, where we tend to let our guards down.

And yet, too many in our communities choose not to wear masks, even as infection rates increase, local hospitals run short on resources to care for all patients needing care, and businesses struggle. As a Chamber board, we’ve heard that many visitors from other states bypass Idaho, customers stay home, and employees in greater numbers are forced to quarantine.

All of us care about our fellow citizens. All of us want a strong economy that allows everyone to prosper. All of us want to be safe, healthy, and happy.

Wearing a mask is easy. It is effective. And it is good business.

That is why the leaders of two of eastern Idaho’s biggest employers have been such vocal advocates for mask wearing. And it’s why so many other local business owners are encouraging citizens to wear masks.

In a recent interview with East Idaho News, Melaleuca CEO Frank VanderSloot talked about how preventive measures, including masks, have helped his company limit the spread of COVID-19.

And VanderSloot emphasized that masking up will help us avoid the worst-case scenario, even wider spread and a lockdown on local businesses.

“Let’s wear masks so we don’t have to close businesses,” VanderSloot said. “Let’s be safe so we can keep the economy running.”

Mark Peters, director of Idaho National Laboratory, has consistently delivered a similar message, telling his employees that INL’s ability to perform its vital national security and clean energy research depends on limiting the spread of COVID-19, in part by adhering to company policies, including wearing masks in INL facilities.

And, as he wrote in a column published earlier this year by the Post Register, all of us can do so much good with a simple gesture of goodwill to those we interact with, including employees at the businesses we frequent.

“If all of us, including INL’s 5,000 employees and their families, committed to wearing a mask when we go out, we would show respect to essential workers and do our part in preventing a new wave of COVID-19, which carries devastating health and economic implications,” Peters wrote.

Unfortunately, a new wave has arrived. It is here. And how we handle it may determine the state of our economy as 2020 turns into 2021.

A mask is a small inconvenience that helps protect our businesses and the people who depend upon them to support their families.

We know this virus is deadly. We know how it spreads. We know that masks are effective in slowing transmission. We know that when COVID-19 cases spike, our economy suffers.

So please, if you care about the local businesses that drive our economy, wear your mask.

Let us all resolve to do the right thing. This is about keeping Idaho open for business.

Signed, Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors including:

Sara Prentice, Idaho National Laboratory

Chip Schwartz, CEO, Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce

Adam Frugoli, Leavitt Group

Frank VanderSloot and Tony Lima, Melaleuca

Chris Sheetz, Harris Publishing

Staci Matheson, The Hartwell Corporation

Elsje R. Johnson, Blue Cross of Idaho

Robert Couch, Parsons Behle & Latimer

Mike Walker, College of Eastern Idaho

Marvin K. Smith, Hawley Troxell Ennis & Hawley

Geri Rackow, Eastern Idaho Public Health

Catherine Smith, Idaho Falls Downtown Development Corporation

Rebecca Casper, Mayor of Idaho Falls

Ray Gordon, Apple Athletic Club