By Justin Aufdermauer
As we near the one-year anniversary of the very first state-wide shut down due to the global pandemic, the Tillamook Chamber of Commerce is looking to ensure the voice of the business community is heard. In short: business need to be allowed to open immediately within CDC recommended guidelines.
Our small business community is a vital component of Tillamook County. It is the very backbone of our culture, and it is what makes Tillamook such a unique place to live, work, and visit. Yet it is the small business community that has been unfairly targeted by regulations and closures from the Governor’s office over the last 11 months. Nearly every small business was forced to close at one time or another, and many have had to react on a moment-by-moment notice of whether they can operate or not. While our small business owners are resilient, and have done a remarkable job of holding on and rolling with the punches, many Tillamook County businesses are on the verge of letting go.
Those that have been able to continue operations have been extremely responsible and responsive to the COVID-19 guidelines coming from the state. The recent adoption of the Oregon OSHA Covid-19 Standard further means that Oregon workplaces are some of the safest and most sanitary places for customers and employees to be. And yet, public health officials have been clear that Covid-19 is spreading in Oregon for reasons unrelated to businesses being open. Locally, as of January 15, 2021, we have seen 357 positive and presumptive cases and two (2) deaths in all of Tillamook County since March 2020, according to the Oregon Health Authority. Tillamook County has remained as the third lowest rate per 100,000 for several weeks, only behind Wheeler and Wallowa counties. Something has to give.
The Tillamook Chamber, in accordance with the Oregon State Chamber of Commerce, believe all local businesses should be open in some capacity. Currently 26 counties sit under the Extreme Risk category which prohibits operation of indoor fitness (dance studios, YMCA, etc.) and entertainment (theater, museums, etc.) and any indoor dining at restaurants. This is a problem for all of rural Oregon, but especially here on the Oregon Coast where small business owners already face unique challenges that they must overcome to be successful during much of the year.
Last week, the Chamber submitted a letter to Mayor Burris and the Tillamook City Council asking them to collectively support the opening of businesses within the recommended CDC recommendations and submit public support to the Governor’s office, stating that small businesses should be allowed to reopen with the same considerations being granted the school districts; allow businesses to re-open in a manner that requires masks and physical distancing measures and frequent hand washing; and allow our small businesses to tackle the safety measures with the same spirit they used to carve out their niche in private enterprise.
The Tillamook Area Chamber Board of Directors and the City Council of Tillamook stand united in our commitment to continuing to do our part, within our authority, on behalf of safety and small businesses by encouraging every member of our community to follow the health and safety guidelines established by the CDC, OHA, and Tillamook County. We are in no way advocating for the disregard of State mandates – we are requesting a change to reduce the Extreme Risk levels mandates to those of the High Risk category, which will allow all businesses to open in one form or another.
At the time this is published, Tillamook County may have received word that it will move down to the High Risk category, and while this is welcome news, this creates a lot of market volatility for small businesses as they have to be prepared to shut down as soon as two weeks later due to single digit positive case increases as we have seen recently in Clatsop County.
Our business community has made unparalleled sacrifices over the last 11 months to help the state fight the novel coronavirus. The continued, seemingly never-ending, addition of more restrictions and closures from the Governor’s office on their shoulders is too great a burden for anyone to bear. The weight of this pandemic cannot unnecessarily rest on a limited number of businesses.
Please continue to support Tillamook County businesses, now is the time to not only shop local, but to offer encouragement and let them know how much you appreciate their presence in our community. Your kind words may be the encouragement some of these businesses need to keep holding on.