May 11, 2020

Family Matters

Maryland and Virginia are reopening their economies—marking a noteworthy departure from their coordinated response with DC.

Mayor Muriel Bowser has made it clear DC will not relax restrictions after May 15 when current social distancing orders expire.

But Maryland has already relaxed restrictions on outdoor activities and plans to begin phase one of reopening this week. This would include lifting the stay-at-home order, reopening certain small businesses and religious centers and resuming elective outpatient surgeries.

Virginia’s first phase of reopening, “safer-at-home,” may allow select non-essential businesses, including religious centers, restaurants and hair salons to re-open. But they would face capacity restrictions and social distancing policies.

Mayor Bowser hinted at her disapproval of nearby governors’ decisions, saying, “What we see in all the jurisdictions—DC, Maryland and Virginia—are growing case counts and continued community transmission…People mixing in various ways will lead to increased infections.”

Recent cell phone data that tracks users’ locations shows Mayor Bowser may be justified in her concern: After five weeks of stay-at-home orders, DMV residents are leaving their homes more often.

In April, DC earned an “A” in mobility reduction. Today, it has a “C” grade. But Maryland dropped from an “A” in late March to a “D-“ today, while Virginia has slipped from a “B” to an “F.”

Helping Businesses Plan for the Future

The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security has published guidelines to help businesses navigate reopening or expanding their operations during the pandemic.

Most states and U.S. territories have begun to ease the restrictions on business and social activity imposed in early March to curb the spread of the virus. Though large gathering spaces like bars, restaurants and nightclubs generally remain closed across the country, businesses that can more easily adhere to social distancing policies are starting to come back online.

The toolkit contains:

The instruction manual was developed by public health experts to help business owners evaluate their establishments’ risk of COVID-19 transmission and implement changes to daily operations and policies that can lower the risk of exposure.

By identifying their risk levels for contributing to the spread of COVID-19 and implementing effective mitigation measures, business leaders can do their part to increase the safety of their employees, clients, customers and community.

COVID-19 By The Numbers

Do What I Say, Not What I Do

Individuals and brands have come under fire for not depicting proper social distancing protocols and other public health recommendations to help flatten the pandemic’s curve.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb had to issue an apology after a few supporters posted a recent selfie taken with the governor that clearly showed a violation of his own social distancing guidelines.

And a Minnesota cardiologist was suspended for a week after photos of him violating social distancing guidelines (and his health system’s own policies) surfaced during a protest at the state capitol.

Brands are at risk here too. In late February, KFC launched an ad in the UK featuring customers licking their fingers. More than 150 people found the ad offensive given the growing spread of coronavirus at that time.

Complaints to the UK’s advertising review board forced KFC to pull the ad down shortly after.

If brands don’t consider their messages now, it could have consequences for consumer trust.

A Morning Consult survey found consumers would be less likely to purchase a product featured in any advertisements depicting close physical contact.

A word to the wise: update your ad creative with the kind of social distancing stock photography we wrote about previously.

Capital Recap

House Democrats are hard at work finalizing another round of relief legislation. Their bill could be released later tonight or tomorrow. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said today the House may reconvene as early as this Friday. Members will be given 72 hours notice before they would need to return to Washington, meaning if the bill is not released by noon Tuesday, a vote could slip to next week.  

The Democratic proposal is likely to include:

  • At least $800 billion in aid to local and state governments;
  • Another round of stimulus checks for Americans;
  • Enhanced unemployment benefits;
  • Increased access to coronavirus testing;
  • Funding for vote-by-mail programs and $25 billion for the U.S. Postal Service;
  • Safety protections for front-line workers who are at risk of contracting and spreading the virus;
  • Paid sick leave for health care workers; and
  • Expanded access to broadband.

However, Congressional Republicans remain hesitant to pass another large spending bill so quickly. And the Administration wants to wait six to eight weeks before taking action on another stimulus package.

White House officials have also discussed measures in the next relief package that would trigger automatic federal spending reductions. These measures would limit the impact of future stimulus efforts on the growing national debt once the economy improves.