Our Opinion: Let’s start the discussion on reopening businesses

Measured, careful, thoughtful openings are a good thing. Staving off the coronavirus and refiring our economic engines doesn't have to be an either/or proposition.


The stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Tim Walz to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus in Minnesota can be likened to a double-edged sword.

We firmly believe it was issued for the right reasons. So little is known about the coronavirus even now and we don’t know how long it will last. What we do know is that thousands of people are testing positive each day and that number will escalate as more testing becomes available.

The actions taken by Walz and the Trump Administration were done for one reason -- to protect us by slowing the virus’ spread. We also need to remember fighting the coronavirus is a marathon, not a sprint.

At the same time, there is no denying the stay-at-home order has had a devastating toll on our local businesses. That’s why we support the Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce’s Reopen Brainerd Lakes campaign.

The Chamber’s petition to Walz states: “To save our small businesses from closing their doors forever, we support the immediate development of a plan to reopen Minnesota businesses with state-recommended public health and safety accommodations as soon as possible.”


The key for us here is that the Chamber, of which the Brainerd Dispatch is a member, isn’t calling for an immediate, universal reopening but for the development of a plan that will include state-recommended health and safety accommodations.

That is the right way to do it. If nothing else, the petition hopefully will get the discussion of reopening started in earnest, determine if middle ground can be found and go from there. In fact, it follows measures Walz has already been enacting.

Measured, careful, thoughtful openings are a good thing. Done hastily and all those who made sacrifices through social distancing will be for naught. And then what have we accomplished? People won’t patronize a business if they don’t feel safe. Our business community and business leaders need to keep that in mind when reopening.

However, there’s no escaping the fact that the longer we continue as we are, the greater potential for economic devastation and the inability to pull ourselves out of it.

“It impacts our economy, impacts our community and impacts our quality of life,” Brainerd Lakes Chamber President Matt Kilian said in an April 22 story in the Brainerd Dispatch. “So, there has to be some balance between the economy, and public health. And we believe that that balance could be struck. I'm working with the state and these businesses to develop reasonable ways, and even tight restrictions on how they can reopen in some capacity. I believe we can make a difference.”

When the Brainerd lakes area reopens for business, it will be a different world. How we shop, how we deliver goods and services and how we interact will change. The Chamber would be wise to learn from businesses that have stayed open about what has worked and what hasn’t, and come up with a plan for best practices. As with everything, education here is key.

Yes, our health and safety are paramount but we shouldn’t forget about our economy. While the issues are related, we don’t believe staving off the coronavirus and refiring our economic engines has to be an either/or proposition.

If a smart, pragmatic plan to reopen some businesses can be found, we are all for it.

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