Open letter: Next steps to support business through COVID-19
The following letter was shared on January 4, 2022 with members of the Priorities Implementation Cabinet Committee including Premier Jason Kenney and associated Ministers and MLAs:
On behalf of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, the voice of Calgary’s business community, I would like to share the business community’s perspective on moving forward, as we enter a new year facing ongoing pandemic-related challenges.
Our economy and public health landscape are in a very different position today than in March 2020, at the onset of the pandemic. With credit to all levels of government, we have access to vaccines, testing and PPE.
As the context under which we are operating changes, so too must our public policy decisions. We must use all the tools we have - including vaccines, vaccine certification and rapid tests to keep our community safe and economy open. If we equip businesses and citizens with the tools they need to stay safe, additional restrictions and lockdown measures can be mitigated.
Given we have the means to protect the health of our community and economy, on behalf of the business community, I call on you to take the following actions:
1. Increase the accessibility of rapid test kits. Through a partnership with your government, we proudly provide rapid test kits to businesses so they can test their employees, keeping people safe and their businesses open. In the last month, we have experienced a 250 per cent increase in the number of businesses requesting rapid test kits – many citing the need for testing to avoid labour shortages and resulting business closures.
To ensure adequate supply, procure additional rapid test kits from the federal government and other vendors.
Make rapid test kits available at no cost through pharmacies across the province.
Ensure rapid test reporting requirements for businesses align with the public to reduce barriers for businesses in rapid testing employees.
2. Use pandemic management tools to mitigate the need for restrictions. Over the past two years, we have all worked tirelessly to identify and implement alternatives to shutting down our economy. Pandemic restrictions have pushed businesses to the brink, with only 30 per cent of businesses back to pre-pandemic revenue and 20 per cent considering filing for bankruptcy. Now, with vaccinations, testing, vaccine certification, isolation requirements and contact tracing, we know how to keep people safe – without restrictions.
Pass legislation that supports employers in mandating vaccination for staff.
Provide a timeline for when booster vaccinations will be required to be considered ‘fully vaccinated’ under the Restrictions Exemption Program, to incentivize and accelerate the administration of third doses.
Increase availability of testing and access to contact tracing.
Use restrictions as a last resort, prioritizing other tools such as vaccines, certification and rapid testing.
3. Link vaccine certification with contact tracing. With QR codes scanned at many establishments, we now have a technology-based solution that can facilitate effective contact tracing. If, for example, an outbreak occurs in a restaurant, patrons that attended the restaurant that day can be notified immediately. Further, this will help us better understand community spread and ensure restrictions are strategically targeted at venues with high-transmission rates. By lowering transmission rates, the likelihood of restrictions is reduced – and functions as another incentive to businesses to prioritize health and safety.
Use vaccine certification data to support contact tracing.
Monitor outbreaks and target policy changes at venues with high transmission rates, only mandating restrictions where there is data-driven evidence suggesting these be required.
4. Make policy decisions based on hospitalization numbers. At this juncture, positivity rates are high – but the intent of restrictions has been to keep our health care system afloat and avoid severe health outcomes. With the vast majority of COVID cases resulting in mild symptoms, public health measures should be decided based on hospitalizations rather than case rates. Additionally, with the rise of rapid testing and no formal reporting on rapid test results, case rates are likely to be inaccurate and therefore should not be used to inform policy decisions.
We look forward to continuing to work together on behalf of Calgary’s business community to keep people safe and businesses open.
President & CEO Calgary Chamber of Commerce
About the Calgary Chamber
The Calgary Chamber is an independent non-profit, non-partisan business organization. For 130 years, the Chamber has worked to build a business community that nourishes, powers and inspires the world.
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