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US Chamber Of Commerce Stresses Beating The Pandemic To Reopen Businesses

A person walks past a business in downtown Newark, New Jersey on Nov. 12, 2020. (Timoyhy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images)
A person walks past a business in downtown Newark, New Jersey on Nov. 12, 2020. (Timoyhy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images)

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is telling businesses they can beat the pandemic by following science.

The Chamber, which isn’t connected to each local chamber of commerce, is the largest national lobbying group in the country. The historically conservative organization is not only backing science, but recently supported a number of Democratic members of Congress. 

In a recent video, the Chamber argues the only way to save the economy is to follow the safety measures recommended by public health officials to stop the spread of the coronavirus. It’s a message that some might consider to be anti-business because encouraging those protocols might deter people from going to businesses during the pandemic. 

Suzanne Clark, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, says people “shouldn’t have to make a choice between public health and jobs.”

“We’re not going to get back to work until we get back to health,” she says. “That means we have to take the steps that we know work: wearing masks, flu shots, social distancing and washing your hands.”

In July, the Chamber CEO and several business leaders sent a joint letterto President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and the National Governors Association, urging them to spread the message that masks are a critical element in stopping the spread of COVID-19.

The organization is also calling for national standards, so that a total and complete economic shutdown is not “inevitable,” Clark says.

“When we had the big national shutdown, it’s because we didn’t know what worked. We didn’t have testing. We didn’t have tracing. We didn’t have PPE,” she says. “Our hope now is that if you had to have shutdowns, they could be targeted based on data.”

While the nonpartisan Chamber has traditionally supported Republican candidates, the organization endorsed nearly two dozen Democratsfor reelection to Congress in the recent election. Clark says those candidates have stepped up over the past few years in supporting a pro-business agenda, particularly voting for the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

“People have a vision of the U.S. Chamber as being with one party or the other, but the truth is, we’re not,” she says. “We are for job creators and people who wake up in their communities and want their communities to be successful. And health is a really big part of that.” 

As we wait for vaccines to be developed, the entire country needs to come together on the science, Clark says, in order to protect the long-term health of the economy and avoid widespread closures.

“What we say to people is even if you don’t believe in the science, that’s OK. Do it for the grandma next to you in the store who you might be making uncomfortable,” she says. “It’s a moment just to be selfless.”

Ciku Theuri produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Chris Bentley. Samantha Raphelson adapted it for the web.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.