Small businesses and women especially need America to reopen

Op-EdAppeared in Orange County Register on January 20, 2021By Elaine Parker

During the height of the pandemic, local and state leaders consistently argued that business operations needed to be restricted, until the U.S. had a viable vaccine. Well, that day has arrived. More than 14 million injections have been given—averaging roughly 775,000 doses administered daily in the last week. As governments work to distribute the vaccine, it’s time to reopen.

Even Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York —one of the country’s most ardent supporters of strict lockdowns—concurs. The governor recently tweeted, “[w]e simply cannot stay closed until the vaccine hits critical mass. The cost is too high. We will have nothing left to open. We must reopen the economy, but we must do it smartly and safely.”

Welcome to the club governor. I couldn’t agree more. Every day that businesses remain closed or restricted, even more establishments permanently shutter, additional Americans lose their jobs and lives are upended. Women are particularly impacted as some schools remain closed for in-person learning and children are forced to stay at home. Setting aside the developmental consequences of keeping children cooped-up behind a computer screen, mothers are frequently left to choose between a job and their kids.

According to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a surge of coronavirus business restrictions at the tail end of 2020 forced companies to shed 140,000 net jobs in December. And guess what? A report from the National Women’s Law Center indicates that women account for 100 percent of those losses. Females forfeited 156,000 jobs last month, while males actually made employment gains. It’s a lousy job market for everyone, but it’s clearly having an outsized impact on certain groups.

Only reopening the economy will cure this economic disease.

Americans still need to take common sense precautions to limit the spread of the virus until herd immunity is reached. But rather than expending state and local government resources on locking businesses down, they should be channeled into disseminating vaccines as quickly and effectively as possible. Governors should give community leaders the autonomy to distribute vaccines in a way that best fits conditions on the ground. Appetite for the vaccine will vary depending on geography, age demographics and severity of the outbreak in the area.

State and local leaders should also avoid infusing too much bureaucracy into the vaccine distribution and administration system. Too much red tape could strangle the ability of healthcare professionals to efficiently provide injections to residents.

Americans should be lining-up to receive a vaccine.

Both approved coronavirus inoculations are among the best vaccines ever produced. The inoculations have proven to provide a strong defense against the virus for a vast majority of recipients (about 95 percent)—effectiveness rates that are comparable to the routine chicken pox or measles vaccinations.

Even the publicized high effectiveness rates downplay the true performance of the injections. Among the more than 32,000 people who received either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine during clinical trials, only one person contracted the virus and experienced severe symptoms according to the initial Food and Drug Administration review. In short, even if vaccine recipients catch the virus (about five percent of those who receive it), nearly all are expected to have mild cases. While no vaccine is without absolutely zero risk, these inoculations are a relative home run.

Small businesses across the country have been struggling to survive for nearly a year and Americans—especially women—have lost employment opportunities at a record pace. Businesses and schools need to be given the greenlight to reopen as vaccines are administered. We can’t hang on for much longer.

Elaine Parker is the president of the Job Creators Network Foundation.