By Joyce Coronel
The number of lives lost to the coronavirus continues to climb, but the staggering economic impact of the disease is also being keenly felt.
Wrangler News was on the line when Gov. Doug Ducey connected via telephone with local business leaders to address their concerns and field questions and comments.
“Since this began, our focus has been public health first,” Ducey said. He pointed to the efforts of Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services. “She’s been working 24/7, 100 percent focused,” Ducey said, “I’ve been alongside her, but I’ve had an eye to our economy.”
The reopening of Arizona’s economy will be gradual, the governor noted. “I look at it as not a light switch but a light dial,” Ducey said. “The pandemic has dimmed our economy and I realize that. My interest now, while protecting public health, is to gradually turn it back up.”
Prior to his March 30 order to close all but essential businesses, Arizona was leading the nation in economic growth and development, Ducey said. “I was incredibly proud of that.
“I think we will be judged on how we dealt with public health and so far so good on that front… but also how we revived and reenergized our economy
I have high confidence we can be the best in the nation at that.”
One business owner told Ducey he was concerned that small businesses may need to be protected from civil liability. If an employee or customer dies from the coronavirus, he said, “I see some aggressive attorneys filing civil litigation against them. Is there a way to protect them?” the man asked.
Ducey said he shared that concern and would be working with the legislature on a solution.
“I’m looking forward to when these orders evaporate and people are back to work and out in the economy, but we know there will always be unintended consequences—there will be some people who will try to take advantage of the situation. We want to protect our businesses appropriately.”
Stuart Shoen vice president of U-Haul, said he’s concerned people “will return slower than you move the dial” on the economy. May are still gripped by fear and not sure if they are allowed to move.
“I want to encourage you and your team that companies like U-Haul, we are going to meet everyone’s expectation,” Shoen said. “I humbly request that you push as hard as you can and speak positively about all the things you can do.”
Terri Kimble, president of Chandler Chamber of Commerce, was also on the phone call with the governor’s office and local business leaders. She says the governor has surrounded himself with key leaders and “he could tell they were frustrated.
“This is a very complicated issue, the roll out and opening back up. It’s not just saying, ‘Arizona’s open for business,’” Kimble said.
And while the pandemic has exacted a heavy toll on businesses, there is a silver lining.
“I think there have been some real positives that have come out of this,” Kimble said. “I think some businesses, I know specifically for ours, it’s really made us take a look and become better. How can we become more efficient? What are those things we can put in place that we never even thought of before?” In spite of the many difficulties, Kimble sees light at the end of the dark tunnel.
“We are going to come out of this stronger. It’s just these pain points thing right now.”