Local plan better way to make opening moves

Among the many problems of government pronouncements is the notion one size fits all, even when that’s hardly ever the case. Even if the shoe doesn’t fit, wear it anyway. It’s a matter of necessity. Statewide orders can’t possibly account for the vast geographic and economic difference in place like Colorado.

The situation has been no different for the government response to a pandemic in applying the same rules to Denver County with nearly 3,500 positive cases of coronavirus and Mesa County with, at last count, less than 50 cases. It’s like the proverbial comparison of apples and oranges.

There’s at least some good news, then, in the ongoing pandemic coverage of efforts in Mesa County to implement local plans for reopening businesses.

What’s called the Safer at Home Mesa County plan was instituted after a request for waivers from statewide orders was approved.

The plan allows retail outlets and offices as well as personal care businesses, restaurants and gyms to reopen, but with some limitations. Businesses are limited to a third to half their capacity and employees and customers are expected to continue wearing masks and keep their distance. Unfortunately, bars, movie theaters and some other businesses remain closed. Events, festivals and other gatherings of more than 10 people remain prohibited.

While the plan isn’t ideal, it’s at least a start. It represents a balancing act between reopening businesses and slowing the spread of coronavirus. We can only hope it’s a successful act. The ramifications of dropping either ball is too costly.

At the risk of using yet another metaphor, there’s some hope we can start setting the dominoes back up rather than watch them tumble.

And tumble they have. The exponential growth in the number of coronavirus cases in the United States prompted government officials to curtail and even shutter businesses and sequester people at home. That led to layoffs. The next domino to fall? Substantially lower tax collections for governments and budget troubles.

According to the latest results of a poll conducted by the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, 68 percent of those who responded reported a more than
25 percent decline in business receipts.

Looking ahead to longer-term prospects, 35 percent of those who responded to the poll reported five months or less of operating reserves. The longer the pandemic and its associated effects and restrictions continue, the fewer businesses that will survive.

Not surprisingly, 88 percent of those who responded to the poll support the gradual reopening of businesses with appropriate safety measures in place.

Thankfully, local plans are in place to guide that transition.

Mesa County Public Health deserve praise for its efforts in working with local businesses and business organizations to develop the plan and obtain the necessary waivers from state orders.

The success of the plan and further lessening of the restrictions curtailing businesses will depend in large part on the ongoing cooperation of businesses as well as the public. Although Mesa County has experienced far fewer cases of coronavirus than other areas, it remains remarkable so many people go out in public without face masks.

The best-case scenario? The pandemic soon subsides, businesses reopen, people go back to work and the restrictions seem in retrospect as unwarranted. Here’s hoping we’re that fortunate.