The following is an opinion piece offered by Joshua Bonner, President and CEO of the Greater Coachella Valley Chamber of Commerce, on behalf of the GCVCC Board of Directors.
June 9, 2020
An Open Letter to the Coachella Valley Community,
COVID-19 is presenting some unprecedented challenges for our economy. While it is true that some of our businesses can continue to operate with a limited amount of interruption, the virus is presenting severe challenges for many, including our hospitality and group gathering sectors. Whether it is a bar or a concert hall, the cold reality is this virus simply is not allowing our community to congregate as residents and enjoy each other’s company as we normally do.
It has certainly put this chamber in a unique position. Normally our advocacy efforts are straightforward and easy to anticipate, you know that we are going to stand up for the interest of business. It is the role we play within our community, and we do it diligently and with pride. As a chamber, our general preference is that all business and commercial activity proceed unencumbered, allowing free market forces to dictate economic outcomes. In the case of COVID-19, it is clear that the danger to the health and well-being of our community simply is not going to allow that to happen. Guidelines and restrictions must be followed to slow the spread.
We want COVID-19 under control, that should be a goal universal to our community.
Below are some steps the Chamber is taking to help:
- Working with the Riverside Economic Recovery Task Force and the County to distribute protective face coverings, almost 100,000 in the Coachella Valley, to business owners and employees.
- Helping to educate our businesses on the need for face coverings and distributing collateral materials to help them enforce it with their patrons.
- Committing our media and marketing resources to help market the need for social distancing and face coverings to our businesses and community.
- Committing our resources to community efforts, including serving as Chair or Co-chair of the Inland Empire, Riverside County, and Coachella Valley Recovery Task Force(s) respectively.
We understand the above and related steps may still not be enough to get all our businesses to comply with health agency guidelines and restrictions. This week for example, the County of Riverside began issuing “Cease and Desist” orders to businesses who are not complying with current health guidelines. It is unfortunate it has come to that. We urge all our local businesses to do their part to help ensure health standards are met within their establishments.
The good news is, the majority of our businesses have been diligent about following the rules of social distancing, face coverings, and other guidelines as established by county health officials. Most of our retail stores, restaurants, boutiques, salons etc. do not have crowded spaces or close proximity without protective equipment. With the slowing economy, some of our businesses are fortunate to have people inside of their establishment at all.
With that said, can we have a real conversation on the subject of COVID-19 spread?
The truth is, you could close down every business in the Coachella Valley, but unless our community and residents are prepared to change their social behaviors, COVID-19 will continue to be an issue. As we drive around our neighborhoods, we continue to see gatherings at people’s homes, get-togethers, and back yard BBQ’s. Our local resident’s social media pages have been cluttered with pictures of large gatherings in public spaces, group recreational gatherings and more, often with people flaunting health guidelines. Since the lockdown has ended, there has been a general lack of diligence on the part of our community to be judicious in how we interact with each other.
Many of us are hesitant to have this conversation, because the truth is in some small way we are probably all guilty of letting our guard down. But the conversation needs to start, and soon.
We need our community voices to stand up and have a stern and honest conversation with the residents they represent and interact with. COVID-19 will not slow down unless we as a community act in a responsible manner, including in our own homes. Unfortunately, what we have observed over the last few weeks has not been a conversation geared towards community behavior, but instead a narrow focus on which businesses should be open and which should be closed. That is not going to address the totality of the issue – not even close.
We were very encouraged to see the County take steps over the holiday weekend to begin that conversation in earnest with their “Riverside County Mask Up” campaign. To help with the conversation, the Chamber is also partnering with the Greater Palm Springs CVB to shoot a series of PSA’s with our local Mayors to try and get the word out to our community on the importance of remaining diligent to flatten the curve. Thank you to all who agreed to participate!
Its been a rough few months, and we thank all of you for your efforts. We would like to recognize the tremendous work that’s been put in by the Greater Palm Springs CVB, the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership, the Riverside County Economic Recovery Task Force, and everyone in our community that is working so diligently to try to get through this.
Thank you for everything you do!