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'The business's long-term survival is ... at risk when patrons refuse to follow a company's policies.'

The last month has been difficult to navigate. For a time if felt like we were moving forward with some level of certainty. We "flattened the curve." Businesses were reopening. The PPP Flexibility Act was passed. School ended and the sun was coming out.

Then the death of George Floyd sparked a reaction that has resulted in all levels of emotions, anxiety, loss, self-introspection and change. We have seen spikes in COVID-19 infections resulting in changes to the reopening plan and questions about how much we really know about the disease. And to complicate matters, the opinions from experts, authorities and citizens alike are as diverse as humanity itself.

Gov. Kate Brown's mandate that masks, face shields and face coverings are required for indoor public spaces is especially challenging. They are ill-fitting, irritating and inhibiting. It is hard enough doing something uncomfortable, but when an authority figure of any kind tells us we must, often our "stick it to the man" mentality kicks in and we fight it.

When we take that attitude to any type of business, however, there is far more at risk than any one individual's freedom. Please consider the health, safety and livelihood of individuals, families and the business itself when we feel the need to fight against COVID-19-related store policies.

The biggest concern is the health of the employees and other customers. A serious illness can wreak physical, emotional, and mental havoc for an entire family. Disease is part of life, but if one is impacted because of the behavior of another, the pain and suffering is often compounded.

Regardless of what we think about the threat of COVID-19, the Chamber hopes that our sense of respect for each other will outweigh the frustrations created by any inconveniences of wearing face coverings.

The business's long-term survival is also at risk when patrons refuse to follow a company's policies.

Nearly all business insurance policies exclude coverage for any pandemic-related damages, as worldwide claims would render the entire insurance industry insolvent.

Aside from any savings, which many small businesses have already burned through, there is no backup plan to replace lost revenue from the pandemic. Government support is helpful but unpredictable, and companies must operate under the assumption that they are on their own.

In addition, businesses risk fines and other punitive actions if they ignore state guidelines. While some question whether Gov. Brown's mandates are enforceable by law, only the courts can make that determination, and no business can afford to wage that fight.

Not adhering to guidelines that have been mandated by our elected officials also creates major liability concerns. Lawsuits and demands from ex-employees and customers claiming that a business did not do enough to protect them from COVID-19 are surfacing. The only protection from these claims is to adhere to the requirements as outlined by government and health officials.

Businesses know that the guidelines are difficult. Securing personal protective equipment is expensive and time-consuming. And nothing will ruin a day faster than trying to explain and enforce the guidelines to patrons who are emotional and demanding.

For those who cannot or will not follow a business's guidelines, there are alternatives. Call the store to discuss options. Most stores will gladly pull product for you to pick up at the door and they may even deliver.

Online ordering is another option. If you are caught by surprise by an unexpected policy, or perhaps you forgot your mask at home, please be civil when working with the store to overcome the inconvenience.

Running a business is hard. So much is on the line for businesses, now more than ever, and the impacts of each failed business are far-reaching.

Please do what you can to support them.

Corey Kearsley is executive director of the Sherwood Chamber of Commerce.


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