The coronavirus pandemic and efforts to mitigate its spread have presented extraordinary challenges for our region’s residents and small businesses. This past weekend, the Alameda County Public Health Department and Contra Costa Health Services issued updated guidance following increased positive testing rates for COVID-19 in both counties. Earlier today, Governor Newsom issued additional statewide restrictions affecting indoor businesses statewide, as well as other guidelines for indoor businesses in counties on the state Monitoring List. Although everyone is understandably impatient for a “return to normal”, the way for us to get there is to follow state and local public health guidance and be vigilant in doing so as we try to create safer conditions for everyone.

As a regional economic development organization, East Bay EDA is very sensitive to the impacts of the pandemic on our small businesses and workers. Unemployment in our region has skyrocketed and the official jobless rate of 13.5%, although this figure undoubtedly undercounts the number of people who have been impacted by losses of employment and income. Many small business owners have struggled to reopen, and a number have been unable to do so at all. Moreover, the pandemic has disproportionately impacted businesses owned by Black residents and other people of color, deepening concerns about furthering inequity in our region.

Recognizing both the economic and public health impacts that we are all trying to navigate, last week the Governor’s Office of Business & Economic Development announced a statewide #ShopSafeShopLocal campaign. East Bay EDA stands in strong support of this effort as we all do our part to help support our region’s economy and public health by shopping safely and locally. And as we do this, let’s all remember to wear a mask, wash our hands, and keep our distance from each other while we continue to go about our lives.