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Guest OP/ED: Allowing Retail Operations to Continue Is the Right Move 



By Andrew C. Lara • December 22, 2020


The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this year brought with it a slate of new and unfamiliar challenges, putting a strain not only on our public health systems, but on local economies across the nation. California was hit particularly hard by this virus, as many of the state’s largest cities shut down in response to climbing case counts.  

 With the dedicated work of medical professionals and public health officials, though, we have a far greater understanding of this virus and what each of us can do to contain it than we did back in March, such as wearing masks when in public and remaining conscious to follow the proper social distancing protocols.  

Indoor businesses, and especially retail stores and shopping centers, have been among those most carefully adhering to health experts’ guidance since they first began reopening. These businesses have implemented rules requiring customers to wear masks when they visit a store, have placed prominent visible signage reminding customers to keep their distance from other shoppers, and have redoubled their sanitization protocols to ensure stores remain as cleanly as possible. 

With these measures in place, indoor retail stores have been able to pave the way toward a safe reopening process that enables local economies to begin recovering while also mitigating the potential for the spread of the virus in their stores. 

That is why it was refreshing to see that, in their recent actions to contain the recent spread of COVID-19 in California, Governor Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti allowed retail stores to continue operating at 20 percent capacity. This is a decision that is rooted in science, and one that recognizes that retail stores are not major contributors to the spread of this virus. These businesses provide vital goods for our communities, and by allowing them to remain open, Governor Newsom and Mayor Garcetti will help to mitigate many of the problems that resulted from retail shutdowns earlier this year.  

Those shutdowns ravaged California’s economy, and the effects may linger for months or even years. The small business community was especially devastated by these shutdowns, forcing many businesses to close permanently and leaving the future of many others at serious risk.  

 These closures were accompanied by skyrocketing unemployment throughout California, with unemployment in Los Angeles County even topping 20 percent earlier this year. This had a particularly potent impact on people across the state who rely on hourly wages from jobs at retail shops and local businesses that were forced to close. Minority communities were also hit hard by climbing unemployment this year, with Black workers in the state forced to seek unemployment benefits at a rate almost double California’s average. 

Allowing indoor retail stores and shopping centers that are following all the necessary health protocols to remain open will be paramount in making sure California can recover from this crisis. Earlier shutdowns were based on arbitrary standards of what types of goods and services were deemed essential for California’s families, rather than based on what stores were doing to protect customers. 

If retail businesses were forced to close again, we would doubtlessly see unemployment rise as business closures spike, leaving countless California workers and their families in untenable positions. However, as these stores have been demonstrating, it is possible to allow them to remain open and protect the economy while also keeping people safe, so long as we all work to be part of the solution and follow the proper health practices. 

The pandemic has had a dramatic effect on people across California, and we need to enable our communities to move forward without more economic burdens than they are already carrying. Allowing retail stores to continue operations was the right decision and will help to mitigate the challenges already facing Californians. 

 Andrew C. Lara is a critical care nurse and city councilman in Pico Rivera, Ca.