A Safe, Welcome Re-Opening Plan for California

I’m sure many readers know someone who postponed a wedding or reunion in 2020 due to the inability to gather or travel under COVID-19 restrictions. Thankfully, earlier this week came the good news that we can, once again, begin making plans. California is on the right trajectory. If vaccination rates stay up and hospitalization rates stay low, Governor Gavin Newsom promises that, beginning June 15th, Californians can once again gather together or travel to California’s world class tourist destinations.

Californians are to be congratulated for helping conquer COVID-19 in the state. By sacrificing time together, paying attention to safety protocols and getting vaccinated as soon as possible, we have positioned our economy for re-opening.  If trends continue in this direction, life will soon look a lot more normal. We’ll soon see remote workers return to the office, more diners served restaurant meals indoors and sporting events played in front of loyal fans.

Looking back a year ago, CalChamber’s Labor Law Helpline was flooded with calls from businesses desperate for solutions in the midst of massive shut-downs. Revenues were drying up and workers had to be let go. Those were sad days, full of uncertainty.  California’s tourism, hospitality, entertainment and restaurant sectors were in the beginning of what would become an historic beating. At that time, we had no idea that some businesses would go more than a year with no income. We are grateful for the many small business loans, grants and other forbearance that kept lots of these operations afloat.

As we turn the corner on the worst of the pandemic, however, it is critical that we remember the contributions made by so many—those who followed protocols, essential businesses and their workers, and frontline health care heroes. The sacrifices of all have positioned California for a much-anticipated re-opening. It is imperative that we now work together to do everything we can to support those who provide the jobs Californians need to support their families and drive our economy.

While California’s history has changed, we all have a responsibility to continue our forward momentum. What does that mean? Get vaccinated and wear a mask. We can look no farther than Europe to see how important vaccines are. Many countries are back in lockdown while California is opening for business, thanks in large part to effective distribution of vaccines. Vaccines have been crucial to our success and will be critical to getting the job done. The Governor’s re-opening plan depends on people continuing to be vaccinated at a fast pace. On the brink of re-opening, we simply cannot afford to let down our guard and the necessity, safety and efficacy of vaccines cannot be emphasized enough.

A few weeks after COVID-19 shutdowns began, Governor Newsom asked me to be on his Economic Recovery Task Force. This diverse group of business and community leaders collaborated on numerous recommendations to an evolving crisis that contributed to a robust policy response from state and local leaders. We worked hard to provide solutions but we did not have the benefit of vaccines in 2020. They have been a game changer. As of today, California’s COVID-19 numbers tell an optimistic story—we have the lowest positivity rate in the country.

There is no question that the pandemic brought grief to thousands of families, dislocation to a generation of school children, and economic insecurity to millions of workers. But the willingness of Californians to adapt to the safety protocols and embrace the new vaccines has turned the tide. Everyone needs to be vaccinated and continue to follow protocols. Let’s keep doing the right things and get California open for business.

Allan Zaremberg
Allan Zaremberg is president and chief executive officer of the CalChamber. He took over the top staff position in 1998 after six years as executive vice president and head of CalChamber’s legislative advocacy program. He oversees the CalChamber Business Services Division, which provides employment law expertise through handbooks, services and products, including HRCalifornia, a continually updated website.​ Before joining CalChamber, Zaremberg served as chief legislative advisor to and advocate for Governors George Deukmejian and Pete Wilson. Zaremberg holds a B.S. in economics from Penn State University and a J.D. from the McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific, where he was a member of the Law Journal. See full bio.