Coronavirus

When Can Santa Cruz County Resume Business As Usual?

Once governments ease off lockdowns, local companies will still be on uncertain ground

Santa Cruz's Pacific Avenue is nearly empty amid the county and statewide shelter-in-place orders. PHOTO: TARMO HANNULA

No one knows how the shelter-in-place order will play out—or for how long.

Eventually, Gov. Gavin Newsom and Santa Cruz County Public Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel will start seeing the benchmarks they’re watching for: an increased supply of personal protective equipment, more robust testing capacity, and a sustained drop in active COVID-19 cases. At that point, state and local leaders could start relaxing shelter-in-place orders aimed at slowing the spread of disease. Some non-essential businesses could start opening up, but they may not be open for long, and they could get shut down once more if the virus starts spreading again.

Newel and Newsom have both compared the task of managing virus response to adjusting the levels on a dimmer light switch. “We’re going to need to lift and restrict and lift and restrict to respond to outbreaks and clusters in our county,” Newel said last week.

Casey Beyer, CEO of the Santa Cruz County Chamber of Commerce, says companies are eager to get back to work, but he worries that the stress of managing on-again, off-again government orders could turn into a significant headache for everyone. “The pulsing of a start and stop of businesses may cause more confusion,” Beyer tells GT via email.

He compares the process of individual companies across the region resuming operations to a toddler learning how to walk: It will be different for everyone.

Be that as it may, Robert Singleton, the executive director of Santa Cruz County Business Council, says that many businesses will be banking on getting at least a small sliver of the busy summer season. “Having some of summer is probably still better than having no summer, even if it’s unpredictable,” he says.

In the meantime, locals are doing what they can to support local businesses. In two drives this month, Santa Cruz Works has facilitated more than $200,000 in the sales of gift cards and associated matching funds, via the Ride Out the Wave campaign.

When he isn’t overseeing philanthropic drives, Santa Cruz Works Executive Director Doug Erickson has been pondering some of the bigger-picture issues. He predicts the discussion about how to restart the economy to be a defining topic over the next few months, and he says it opens up uncomfortable questions, like what’s the value of a human life?

Erickson says he realizes it’s sometimes in our nature to think that each human life is priceless and that it would be impossible to calculate their value.

“But in fact, we do this all the time,” Erickson says. “If you have insurance—if you have a car, if you fly on a plane—everyone is saying, ‘If something happens, here’s the value that we put on that person’s life.’ If we can restart economic recovery, and it means that 10,000 people will get jobs, is that worth one human life? Two? Three? Four? It’s really existential, but it’s kind of what’s going on.”

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Curtis Swain

    April 29, 2020 at 10:22 am

    As a local business owner, I prioritize the health and safety of our community over my own financial interests.

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