Opinions vary on how quickly to open up cities for business

by Peter Weinberger pweinberger@claremont-courier.com

Now that we are in our seventh week under stay-at-home orders, anxiety and impatience increase as we map out our future combating the coronavirus. The virus is by no means contained, with new hot spots cropping up all over the US. But the number of cases and associated deaths have begun to flatten out, this is especially true here in California.

The Trump administration is desperate to get citizens back to work, especially since another 3.2 million people filed for first time unemployment. That brings the total to 33 million. In some states, over 25 percent of the workforce is unemployed. One figure has eight million small businesses closing permanently. We are facing an economic depression.

In Claremont, most stores remain shuttered as the city which was built on small business success keeps doors closed. Restaurants are doing their best to promote takeout, but that doesn’t replace the sit-down customers so sorely needed.

The COURIER continues to publish, but the print edition is smaller, with advertising down 25 percent and not improving. I have personally been forced to reduce our staff, although the government’s lifeline through the SBA will offer some help for the next few months.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) just released detailed guidelines to reopen the country, those recommendations were rejected by the White House, saying they were “overly prescriptive.”

California governor Gavin Newsom has taken a more data driven, scientific approach, waiting for numbers to drop to safer levels before opening up the economy. Should you go to the beach or church? See loved ones in a group setting? Opinions vary depending who you ask. We clearly are in uncharted territory.

The general public mimics the opinions of our leadership. Although polls can be suspect for accuracy, in a recent COURIER poll sampling 300 people, 40 percent said we should follow stay safe orders until July or later. This is no surprise given the number of seniors living in the Claremont area.

Opinions vary greatly for the remainder of the poll, with 19 percent saying we should open businesses sooner rather than later, 23 percent say later in May, and 18 percent want to wait until June. These numbers will continue to change as Americans struggle to see life return to normal. Unfortunately, we just don’t know what normal looks like.

In the meantime, we must remain vigilant in following social distancing guidelines, including wearing masks. This will be a new normal for the foreseeable future. And with 28,644 cases in Los Angeles County as of Thursday (27 now in Claremont) there’s no question we will see these numbers increase, regardless of which guidelines we follow.

Finally, let’s not forget the numerous nonprofit organizations that are such an important part of Claremont. They are a critical source of revenue for many causes here in the city. Normally held in April, the Rotary Club of Claremont postponed Taste of Claremont until October 3. And fingers are still crossed for that date. This key event raises money for dozens of local programs—most help our schools—supported by Rotary each year.

Claremont Heritage decided to stream its annual Gala May 23. This event raises money for the survival of Heritage and Claremont’s incredible history. It’s great that the Gala will continue, but we hope it’s as successful as the official event each year at Padua Hills.

Now like the rest of us, these programs will adjust to a new reality. A reality with no end in sight. The good news is that Claremont can be very resourceful, with residents more than willing to help and get involved. We already see that happening all over town.

It’s my hope that whatever your opinion may be on how to proceed, we remain united in supporting each other to stay safe and get back to the business of being a Claremonter.



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