The only way we can beat this pandemic
By Karen Vineyard, OBI board chair and market executive for global commercial banking at Bank of America
This week, Gov. Kate Brown announced that 15 of Oregon’s 36 counties would be moving into the “extreme risk” category due to rising COVID cases. Under the state’s emergency plan, that means several businesses in those counties now face curtailing operations or shutting down altogether – yet again.
It breaks my heart to know that family restaurants, pubs, gyms, bowling alleys, theaters and event spaces once again are facing a loss of revenue, layoffs, and an uncertain future. Gov. Brown said this latest shutdown should last only a few weeks, but we know that every time a business has to limit operations, their financial base is weakened, and their long-term survivability threatened. In the last 13 months, we’ve seen many businesses shut their doors for good, leaving main streets from Ontario to Brookings, Medford to Portland, scarred with empty storefronts.
We can argue all day about whether ordering these business restrictions was the right thing for the governor to do. Frankly, from my perspective, it seems wrong to do this once again to companies that are following the rules and doing their part to keep their workers and the public safe.
But the orders are a reality, so we should focus on what comes next, and that is how we can all be part of the effort to get this COVID virus under control, so our economy can reopen fully and we can try to start living life normally again.
The key to that, in my view, is the vaccine. As more of us become immune, the virus spread will slow, hospitalizations will decline, and these businesses can return to full operation.
My husband and I received our first shots a few weeks ago. We’ll get our second shots soon, and then we will both feel comfortable about getting out and about again after more than a year of sticking close to home and limiting social interactions.
My employer, Bank of America, has encouraged all employees to get the vaccine as soon as possible. Large and small companies all over this country have done the same. They know that extra cleaning, social distancing and wearing masks have helped keep workplaces safe, but ultimately the best protection is the immunity provided through a shot in the arm.
I hope every OBI member is encouraging their employees to get the vaccine. We’re hearing from many of you who have brought vaccinators on site or helped your employees access appointments. The state of Oregon has created this employer toolkit to help you talk about the vaccine with your teams, and I am excited to report that the federal government is offering a tax credit to companies that provide paid time off for employees to get the vaccine. Check out this webinar from the U.S. Chamber to learn more.
The end is in sight, and how fast we get there will depend on how we, as Oregonians, step up to control this virus. So, please, stick with the safety measures: wear your masks, limit your social gatherings and remember to keep a distance. Most importantly, please get a vaccine shot, and encourage your employees, your friends and your family to do the same.
My hope is that, by the 4th of July, we can say this COVID crisis is behind us. With all of us doing our part, we can make that happen.
Thank you for all that you do.