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Commentary: A new social contract: ‘Stay Safe to Stay Open’

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Face masks are recommended at most business in Salt Lake City, Tuesday, May 19, 2020.

The recent spike in coronavirus infections across the sunbelt states and here in Utah is cause for concern. The emerging economic recovery catalyzed by unprecedented fiscal stimulus will have a shelf life and then the question becomes, “What’s next?”

Our limited fiscal levers and increasing national debt threaten our economic recovery. Add the strains of inequality and racial division onto the pandemic and trust in institutions wanes even further.

In finance you learn to tackle the most expensive problem first and that remains the coronavirus. The Utah business community launched a campaign to tackle this challenge entitled Stay Safe to Stay Open. We believe this mantra must become our collective new social contract between business and society.

Everyone knows the statement “Freedom is not free,” and today we should recognize that practicing sound public health practices is a small price to pay to protect our economy. While the politicization of mask wearing is evident, we hope we can turn our attention away from politics and towards protecting our neighbors.

Wearing a mask need not be a matter of politics but rather of practicality, like washing your hands, covering your mouth when coughing and staying home when sick.

We remember a time when smoking in a restaurant or business office was normal, but when we learned the dangers of secondhand smoke that “normal” behavior was prohibited. Not many would advocate a return to indoor smoking or not requiring shirts and shoes as baseline public standards.

Mandates aside, the coronavirus can be fatal for large sections of the public, whereas secondhand smoke merely harms us over longer periods of time. The point is we need to conceptualize this invisible enemy as vastly more dangerous than smoke and deserves our abundance of caution to include following safe public health practices.

The Stay Safe to Stay Open campaign is simple and straightforward in its support of businesses, employees and consumers. If business and their employees conduct and instill safe practices in their workplace and carry those over to their homes and engagement in society, we can limit the spread of this virus.

If business and employees stay safe and create a safe environment for commerce then economic activity and job growth can rebound anew as consumers regain confidence. These safe businesses will be able to remain open and likely gain market share as consumers will choose not to frequent unsafe establishments. This is the power of free markets and the power of consumer choice.

The Stay Safe to Stay Open website is available for businesses to sign up and take the pledge at stayopenutah.com. There we share the statewide campaign designed to meet the critical imperatives of helping Utah address health-related objectives to prevent and recover from the coronavirus and assist the business community in an effort to appropriately strengthen the state’s economy.

We stand at an inflection point with this virus in our state; we can either implement these best practices which will protect those we come in contact with, or fail to do so and put others at risk. We hope we will all do our part to control this pandemic and ensure the economy can rebound and employment of those impacted return.

We still believe in Utah and her people but let us now come together and achieve a moonshot of stopping this virus by looking out for our collective neighbors. Finally, if we weave staying safe into our social fabric it will help us stay open and create a durable social contract for Utah’s prosperous future.

Derek Miller

Derek Miller is president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber.

Theresa Foxley

Theresa Foxley is president and CEO of the Economic Development Corporation of Utah.

Val Hale

Val Hale is executive director of the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

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