It is a mess out there. As these United States begin to ramp up 50 individual economies, poor communication, coupled with a plethora of new rules and regulations, is leading to widespread confusion. What is open, what is closed, what can you do, and what can’t you do? All valid questions that need to come into focus if the American economic train is ever going to pull out of the station.
Virginia Is For …
The governor of the Old Dominion, for example, has announced a reopening date of June 10, with Phase 1 poised to go into effect on May 15. This means Virginia businesses within specific categories have the green light to open their doors. Here are Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D) guidelines:
- Retail establishments: open but only at 50% occupancy
- Restaurants and bars: outdoor dining only and at 50% occupancy
- Personal services/salons and barbershops: one customer per employee
- Worship: services may be held at 50% capacity inside
- Fitness: gyms may hold classes outdoors
These are just the highlights. If you want to open your place of worship, an entire page of rules must be followed (if you can locate them on the internet). Then there are the so-called gray areas. How can a beauty salon operate within the social-distancing guideline of six feet apart when the chairs in so many places are set within two to three feet of each other? Do shop owners need to play eeny, meeny, miny, moe in choosing which of their lucky stylists get to work and which are forced to stay at home in order to comply with the rules?
What about nail salons? They certainly fall under the category of personal services. So how does the one-person-per-employee rule work itself out there? Nail technicians do not work on two people at once, but who has ever seen a nail salon with pedicure bowls six feet apart? Does this mean they will have to leave two seats empty between customers? For the small nail salon with only a few pedicure stations, this doesn’t exactly seem like “open for business.” More likely, it leaves the average small business owners to wonder if it’s worth the money to turn on the heat and lights or just stay home and binge-watch Netflix.
The questions are endless for those who operate these businesses. Still, it may be even worse for the general population who needs to run a gantlet of incomprehensible — and not widely published — rules and regulations. Does this convoluted approach to reopening send the message that governors like Northam are indicating covertly they do not want people out in public? And if so, will these measures coming in slow waves — called phases — ultimately serve the intended purpose of jump-starting a state’s economy? Or are they simply giving lip service to the notion of reopening?
Just Tell Me, Please!
Perhaps the real issue is not the number of rules but a lack of clear communication with the public. In trying to organize a comprehensive list of state reopenings, Liberty Nation’s Kelli Ballard punctuated this point: “Some states don’t even have published guidelines.”
We can stipulate that governors are working in the realm of uncharted territory. They are trying to be circumspect and consider public health — but statewide communication is key to knowing what you are permitted to do, where, and how. It is too easy to run afoul of restrictions if you don’t know what they are and to whom they apply.
Currently, 35 states are in one phase or another of reopening. Fifteen still carry restricted stay-at-home orders. Some have met the federal criteria set out by the Trump administration; others that have not are reopening under their own guidelines.
This is how it is supposed to work — 50 states with 50 methods to get to the economic promised land. Federalism in action is a good thing. One size most certainly does not fit all for America as a whole. However, governors would be wise to put their communication offices on overdrive and take the necessary steps to be transparent with their constituents because confusion and chaos are not going to fix what ails a flagging U.S. economy.
Liberty Nation has put together a state by state tracker for what services and types of business are open in your state. Click here to get the latest information updated daily.
Read more from Leesa K. Donner.
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