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Here we go again (ugh)…

August 2, 2021Doug Peters, President & CEO of the Abilene Chamber

Just when we thought it was safe to come out of hiding, America and the world appear to be facing another round of pandemic challenges. Not to minimize the health concerns it brings our families and our neighbors, but the Chamber is a business advocacy organization. Our role is to look after the interests of business, collectively. We’ve done that for well over a century.

And this time around, as before, your Chamber is committed to doing all we can to ensure our economy stays intact.

Truth is, there are a variety of factors that your Chamber’s leadership must weigh, and all of them are critical to the overall safety and health of our community and the businesses within it.

We’re in constant communication with the health system, who we all might imagine is stressed. ICU is at capacity, with roughly 95 percent of those in intensive care unvaccinated. It does appear that vaccinations help – however we also know that vaccinations are a personal choice. We must and will respect that.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Chamber has been steady with its position: we encourage each member of our community to do all they believe to be reasonable and necessary to not only protect themselves and their loved ones, but also to be mindful of the implications of a maxed-out health system and the issues that brings. If we hit a certain capacity threshold and stay there, we expect the same issues to emerge as they have in the past.

For us, it’s about jobs and the economy. It isn’t about appealing to our biggest supporters. It’s about the greater good, with a litmus test of impact on business.

We know that any cancellations of Chamber functions/events could trigger a wave of fear that impacts traffic in your enterprise. As of today, the Chamber does not intend to throttle back on any of our scheduled activities for the fall. And we hope and pray it stays that way.

However, as a steward of what’s best for our community, and to mitigate the potential impact on our members, we will reimplement our five-point safety protocols that we used the first go-round. We want people to feel safe and comfortable, but we also have a community responsibility. That is a really tough balance. Again – what is in the greater good?

One example is this weekend’s World’s Largest BBQ, expected to feed more than 3,500 airmen and their families. In that particular case, the Department of Defense has mandated masks for all military personnel, and out of respect (and an abundance of caution), the Chamber will be asking all 200 volunteers who give of their time to follow suit regardless of how “done” we personally feel about the whole masking thing.

None of us know what to expect long-term. Is this another “two weeks to flatten the curve” exercise? Honestly, it depends on how we respond. I – as I bet you do – have great respect for our local healthcare providers. I don’t believe they’re influenced by politics or anything other than their Hippocratic Oaths. I trust my own doctors to make the right decisions for my long-term well-being. In fact, that’s why I personally chose to be vaccinated. Not to mention, I don’t have time to be sick.

But your Chamber also knows that for each person like me who chose the vaccine, there are others who chose otherwise. We respect that. And far be it for the Chamber to implore on our member businesses anything other than to do what they feel is reasonable and necessary, in line with the greater good of all of our community, with a focus on how we all work together to ensure our businesses and our economy remain open and functioning.

Do we wish more were vaccinated? Of course. Are we supportive of local businesses providing incentives to their employees to take the vaccine in order to help keep the doors of business open? Yes, we are. However, the Chamber isn’t in a place to “mandate” anything. We will do all that’s reasonable and necessary to help.

I could go on and on about the scuttlebutt on the street, and what we’re hearing. It isn’t because there’s a lot being talked about, necessarily, but because for each person we talk with about their views, very seldom to we find two opinions alike.

This is a hard one. Last time we were faced with this was painful. If we can help mitigate the impact of this infection surge, we’re compelled to do so.

No matter what the weeks and months ahead bring, your Chamber will be doing what it does every day – working to ensure that you have the ability to operate.

I’m interested in your thoughts. I’ve inserted a link HERE to provide you an opportunity to weigh in on how you’re coping, how your Chamber can help, and any suggestions you might have that will help us serve you better through whatever tomorrow brings.

Onward!

Doug

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