I don’t envy the position Gov. Kay Ivey is in. Deciding to close the state to avoid overwhelming our hospitals and healthcare system was a tough choice but also the right one.
And the point of this editorial isn’t to question whether now is the time to reopen Alabama. From the beginning, I have said that is a decision that needs to be decided by medical professionals, not politicians who want to act like they are medical professionals.
But what I don’t understand is the governor’s decision to announce on a Friday restaurants could reopen on Monday.
Restaurants need time to order food because for the last six weeks all they’ve been able to do is provide curbside and drive-thru service. That means most restaurants haven’t been ordering enough food to provide both dine-in and curbside service.
On top of that, restaurants need time to rehire their staff (some of whom have gone to other states or other jobs) or to hire new staff. They also need time to develop their procedures for providing dining-in service while also maintaining the state’s recommended health guidelines.
None of that can be easily done in just two or three days. And what’s really odd about it is the timing.
Why would Ivey wait until the day after Mother’s Day to reopen restaurants? Mother’s Day is probably the second busiest day of the year for restaurants after Valentine’s Day. It’s an important day for restaurants to make a profit, especially during these tough economic times. And it’s also an important day for collecting sales tax revenue, which is already expected to take a big hit because of COVID-19.
If the governor was going to give restaurants only three days to open she should have at least announced it on Wednesday instead of Friday so they could have been open for Mother’s Day. Nothing significantly changed from Wednesday to Friday.
It seems like the governor is just flying by the seat of her pants, with no real plan or strategy of any kind. All she is doing is reacting to things instead of thinking ahead and developing a real plan to safely reopen our state.
The result is this whole process has been chaotic. Maybe the governor has been so focused on the health aspect of this thing she didn’t give much thought to the economic side of it?
Our leaders need to be focused on both. We have to have a balance between doing what is in the best interest of public health and doing what is necessary to protect our economy so that people can get back to earning a living and businesses can survive.
I know the governor is extremely busy. But I hope going forward she will take more time to truly think things through and develop a plan, because the one thing we can’t afford is to have a serious relapse of COVID-19 then have to shut the state down again.
There are still important decisions that have to be made, like when to ease off on the social distancing requirements, when to allow businesses to operate at higher capacities, and when to allow widely attended events like concerts and sports to resume.
As the governor prepares to make those decisions, I hope she will put more thought into them than what she did last week.
Craig Ford is the owner of Ford Insurance Agency and the Gadsden Messenger. He represented Gadsden and Etowah County in the Alabama House of Representatives for 18 years.