OPINION

We must stay the course on economic recovery

Posted 5/20/20

After more than two months of pandemic-induced stasis, we seem to be at a crucial crossroads regarding Gov. Gina Raimondo's handling of the coronavirus crisis - one that will have long-term implications for every facet of our state as we know it, for

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OPINION

We must stay the course on economic recovery

Posted

After more than two months of pandemic-induced stasis, we seem to be at a crucial crossroads regarding Gov. Gina Raimondo’s handling of the coronavirus crisis – one that will have long-term implications for every facet of our state as we know it, for better or worse.

While the governor enjoyed approval ratings about as high as they could possibly go in today’s polarized political society at the onset of the crisis for her quick and deft approach to flattening the curve, the financial burden that has been shouldered by restaurant owners, small business purveyors and employees in the hospitality industry that continue to rely on unemployment in order to prevent further, more dramatic spread of the virus has finally begun to take its toll on that widespread acclaim.

The Republican voices in Rhode Island have begun to rally, as they have in many states across the country, that the response and ongoing measures have been extreme, based on faulty data modeling, and even a breach of gubernatorial power – as former Rhode Island Supreme Court Justice Robert Flanders suggested earlier this month.

“Many Rhode Islanders feel that the Governor prematurely shut-down our summer fun,” Rhode Island Republican Party spokeswoman and former Warwick mayoral candidate Sue Stenhouse said recently. “The General Assembly can be heroes and give us our summer back.”

While there may not be a summer as we normally expect in Rhode Island this year, a #CoronaSummer will begin this weekend as Gov. Raimondo will be experimenting with opening Scarborough and East Matunuck state beaches to limited amounts of beach-goers. In her announcement, she recognized the difficulty in balancing the significant economic importance of the beaches to the state with her sworn responsibility to safeguard the public health of Rhode Islanders as governor.

Indeed, anybody pretending that they would rather be in the governor’s shoes right now is likely not being honest with themselves. She holds the weight of an entire state and its citizens on her shoulders with every decision – one where the “right” decision will likely result in thousands more losing their jobs or their businesses, and the “wrong” decision could literally cost people their lives. That’s a heavy burden to hold.

We can’t help but come back to the same conclusion we reached when the state began shutting down in late March. The people who continue to call for the state to significantly ease restrictions and re-open the state – whether to help salvage our business community or to salvage our “summer fun” – seem to completely ignore the likely repercussions of that approach. If you open too soon and too quickly and there’s another outbreak, you’ve only exacerbated and extended your problem indefinitely. It is a short-sighted “solution” that simply ignores the difficult reality we face in regards to this persistent virus.

As difficult as it may be to accept, the gradual reopening process being utilized by the governor is not only the most responsible approach to ensure the least amount of lives are lost, it is also giving the best chance for as many businesses as possible to survive as well. A partially shut down economy is very bad for business, clearly. But a second consecutive, all-encompassing shut down due to a resurgence of the illness during the upcoming flu season would be a guaranteed death knell for business.

Certainly, aspects of the reopening process should continue to be modified. Dining restrictions may be able to be loosened for restaurants with the size capabilities to adhere to proper distancing protocols, for example. Conversations and debate should continue to be heard, and the governor can always be checked on her authority – but we cannot lose our heads in the middle of this difficult marathon. Deviating from the course could spell disaster the likes of which we can only currently imagine.

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