When California was first hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, millions across the state were confronted with uncertainties unlike anything else they had experienced before. As the medical community worked to learn more about this virus and how to contain it, Californians stayed home and took precautions to protect themselves and their families.
Unfortunately for people throughout the state, this also brought another challenge. As the pandemic persisted and businesses remained closed, millions lost their jobs. This unemployment crisis was borne disproportionately by many of the most vulnerable Californians, as hourly workers who rely on indoor retail businesses were left out of work. Meanwhile, small businesses that managed to withstand earlier shutdowns are still facing a high degree of concern about how they will navigate the rest of this epidemic.
Black and Latino workers have felt a particularly significant impact since COVID-19 forced many businesses to shutter. Between March and May alone, one in four Black workers in California filed jobless insurance claims. Similarly, Latino communities both within California and throughout the rest of the nation have experienced enormous job losses at the hands of the pandemic.
With so many challenges still facing families across California, it is encouraging that new COVID-19 prevention measures being implemented by Governor Gavin Newsom and local leaders like Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti will allow indoor retail businesses, which are a vital source of employment and economic stimulation in areas all over the state, to continue operating at a limited capacity.
The decision to allow these businesses to stay open recognizes that science has demonstrated retail businesses are not a major source of the spread of COVID-19. In fact, recent research from the Yale School of Management shows that closing low-risk businesses like retail stores is actually a counterproductive tactic in slowing the spread of COVID-19. This marks important progress in our state’s recovery, and shows the degree to which retail businesses have worked to create a safe environment for shoppers and employees.
From early on, retail businesses have been working to follow the latest information and guidance offered by health experts, requiring customers to wear masks and closely monitoring store capacity to allow for social distancing. In addition to bolstering cleaning regimens to ensure a sanitary shopping experience, many businesses now post frequent visible reminders for customers to follow all the proper health practices while they are shopping. This has enabled these businesses to operate while also minimizing risk, and has been vital to reopening safely.
Thanks to the constant, tireless work by medical professionals to learn more about this virus, we are learning how to respond to the pandemic in a way that preserves public health without creating even more economic hardship. Allowing retail businesses that are taking the necessary steps to keep people safe to remain open is the right move, and one that will provide long-term benefits for California. This will extend beyond the business community as well, helping others all over the state.
Beyond offering valuable sources of employment and income, retail businesses also help to generate a significant deal of tax revenue that is used to fund social programs Californians need to get through the rest of the pandemic. Ensuring that retail storefronts can keep their doors open will provide a broader benefit to our communities that helps those who are struggling most.
In allowing retail businesses to continue operating, California’s leaders are showing that they are committed to solutions that are both informed by what we’ve learned about the virus and will facilitate our economic recovery. This is an encouraging step, and one that will help to alleviate some of the challenges that our state has faced throughout the year.
Amanda Alvarado is the owner of Little Shed: Quality Home Goods in Whittier, Ca.