We’re now a little over year into the COVID-19 pandemic and there finally seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel.

Minnesota’s COVID-19 cases are going down, vaccinations are going up, school is mostly back to in-person learning; and we are protecting our most vulnerable. As our situation improves, our Chamber is looking to state leaders who control the ability for businesses to also recover and ask: What’s next for businesses? What’s the plan?

It is time for a transparent plan to reopen our economy — one that Minnesota businesses, their employees, and their customers can rely on. While last week’s turn of the dial was welcomed, it’s not the final step and there is no clear timeline or health metrics identified for when that final step can occur.

Other states have developed detailed plans including achieving certain health-based metrics, dates, or other milestones in order to trigger reopening on a regional, industry-specific, or statewide basis. If other states are already doing this, why can’t Minnesota? The Governor is using some basis of metrics to make his decision, and since the legislature is not involved with the decision-making, nor has access to the data, the people of Minnesota deserve to know what metrics are being used and when they can expect life and commerce to fully resume from its indefinite pause.

Businesses that were deemed essential were mandated to develop detailed strategies to protect their workforce from the spread of COVID-19 while ensuring continuity of operations have done so. Consumer-facing businesses and office locations have also developed plans and procedures to fully reopen their doors and restart their operations safely and responsibly in line with the requirements of this “new normal.” Businesses are ready to reopen their businesses and to reopen safely – they just need to know the plan for doing so.

Employees that were deemed essential continued to work while others were laid off indefinitely. While grants, unemployment, and social service support has helped many employees, they too need to know what a return-to-work timeline looks like. Recent turns of the dial have given businesses and their employees 48 hours (or less) notice to line up babysitters, adjust family schedules, and transportation in order to return to their jobs.

Communities rely on public gathering, and non-profit organizations that rely on fundraising, need to be able to plan their events. Without a timeline from the Governor, these important planning timelines cannot happen. While larger organizations may have hundreds of staff to help them pivot, many of these community-based events rely on volunteers, who must juggle their jobs, families, and health in order to raise their hands to help out. These events often raise much needed funds for non-profit organizations and are part of the community’s recovery, not only economically, but also emotionally.

Businesses, employees, and communities have suffered enough in the last year. Governor Walz owes it to Minnesota to lay out a clear path to reopen the economy so businesses can plan for the future. Until then, we are all left asking the simple question: Where’s the plan? — Elk River Area Chamber of Commerce, Board of Directors and executive director Debbi Ryderg (Editor’s note: Membership of the Elk River Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors includes: Brian Bohnsack, Fleming Investment Group; Cindy Hemmer, Distinctive Iron; Corey Wemple, The Bank of Elk River; Danyell Wendland, ABRA Auto Body & Glass; Deborah Leedahl, Kemper Drug & Gifts; Dr. Carrie Collyard Glinsek, Collyard Chiropractic P.A.; John Houlton, First Bank Elk River; Katie Jendro, Hess & Jendro Law Office P.A.; Linda Cockrell, HR & Q, LLC; Marilyn Nathe-Specht, 101 Market; Nicole Novotny, Guardian Angels Senior Services; Randy Barney, RB’s Computer Service Inc.; Melissa Fermoyle, Metal Craft; and Rob McDonald, Pizza Ranch.)

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