In Episode 116 of The Workplace podcast, CalChamber President and CEO Allan Zaremberg and Dee Dee Myers, senior adviser to Governor Gavin Newsom and director of the Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz), discuss the COVID-19 vaccine and why it is critical to reopening the California economy.
Reopening Set for June 15
Earlier this month, Governor Newsom announced that California will be fully reopening its economy on June 15. Why, Zaremberg asks Myers, did the Governor choose June 15?
Two science-based factors determined that decision, Myers replies. One factor is that COVID-19 vaccines are now widely available and when the podcast was recorded almost 23 million doses had already been distributed. Moreover, Californians can expect to see the vaccine supply increase in the coming weeks. [As of April 21, more than 26 million vaccines had been administered.]
The second factor is that there has been a substantial decrease in COVID-19 infection rates, and hospitalization and intensive care unit (ICU) rates, she says.
The eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine opened to everyone over 16 years old on April 15, so the June 15 date was chosen to give people enough time to make their vaccination appointments and receive their two doses of the vaccine and reach peak immunity.
By June 15, Myers says, there should be a substantial number of people who have been vaccinated.
But just because the economy is reopening does not mean that the virus is no longer a threat. Myers cautions that the state will have moved on enough to reopen, but people will still need to take common sense safety precautions.
Vaccine Is a ‘Game Changer’
Even though the COVID-19 vaccine is available, there is still some vaccine hesitancy, so it’s on us to educate people, Myers says. President Joe Biden said that everyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one by the end of May, so organizations and businesses should encourage people to get vaccinated. State officials will be working to make vaccines accessible to vulnerable communities and provide vaccines in close proximity to where people live.
Businesses can encourage their workers to get vaccinated by providing incentives, such as granting time off, she says.
The most important thing people can do to help fight this virus is to get vaccinated, she urges.
Zaremberg agrees, saying, “There’s no question that vaccines are a game changer.”
He points out that the difference vaccines can have can be seen between California and wealthy countries that don’t have vaccines available. Countries like Germany and France remain locked down, while California is reopening.
In encouraging others to get vaccinated, Myers suggests that people highlight the fact that vaccinated people won’t have to wear a mask when they are in an indoor area with other vaccinated people. Vaccinated people also will be able to attend indoor concerts and sporting events.
“Let’s continue to be mindful so that we can go back to business and go back to the lives and activities that we love and that we’ve all missed so much,” she says.
‘Light at the End of Tunnel’
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the business community unevenly, with some businesses prospering, while others, such as those in the tourism and hospitality sector, were hit hard, Zaremberg says.
Tourism and hospitality are a critical piece of California’s economy, Myers says, and another reason the Governor chose June 15 as the reopening date is to give businesses more predictability and time to prepare for conferences and events.
Visit California will soon be promoting areas of the state that people can visit, she adds, and travel rules for out-of-state visitors, such as vaccine requirements, will also be developed.
Will the state develop a way for people to prove they’ve taken the vaccine, Zaremberg asks?
California will not be developing its own vaccine platform, or “vaccine passport,” Myers answers. Instead, the state is leaving it up to the private sector to develop platforms and it will be up to individuals to choose how they want to demonstrate that they’ve taken the vaccine, such as through provider documents or a vaccination card.
In wrapping up the podcast, Zaremberg urges listeners to get vaccinated and encourage the people around them to get vaccinated as well.
The most important thing we can do as residents of California and as members of our communities is to get vaccinated, Myers says. The vaccine is working even better than was expected and it is the light at the end of the tunnel to get customers and the community back to normal.
State grant and loan programs through GO-Biz are available to help businesses reopen and bring employees back to work. For more information, visit business.ca.gov/coronavirus-2019/.