Despite our progress on reducing infections and deaths from COVID-19, we still seem stuck with one aspect of the Pandemic: ever changing rules. (I wrote about 2020’s challenges at https://www.sgrvlaw.com/the-paycheck-protection-program-what-a-long-strange-trip-its-been/.)
In today’s race to “get back to normal”, however, businesses again face the same frenetic pace of change – but now at the same time as they try to recover from the shutdown. In recent days, businesses and nonprofits had to digest new rules for schools (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/index.html), employee safety (Federal Register :: Occupational Exposure to COVID-19; Emergency Temporary Standard), and, of course, the ever-changing mask mandates (Pennsylvania’s universal mask mandate lifts Monday, but businesses can still require them – Philadelphia Business Journal (bizjournals.com)), all in real time – and the list could go on.
Businesses must also balance whether it is worth trying to get any of the massive amount of relief money that is still available (Small-business COVID-19 stimulus funds: What’s still available? (inquirer.com)), against the risk of criminal prosecution if the funds may later be deemed not “necessary”, with 20 – 20 hindsight.
(That choice just became easier with the Small Business Administration’s abandonment of its “loan necessity” questionnaire. SBA officially drops PPP Loan Necessity Questionnaire requirement – Journal of Accountancy)
But all this talk about “normal” seems more than a bit surreal. After all, the virus is still here. It is even surging in some parts of the country. People are still getting sick – and dying. Businesses must still devote time to try to keep up with all the rule changes. If all those burdens were not enough, PPP loan forgiveness deadlines are looming, albeit with promises of even easier procedures. SBA preps new PPP loan forgiveness portal for small businesses – Philadelphia Business Journal (bizjournals.com)
Unlike in 2020, however, at a personal level we now have safe and effective vaccines to protect us – for those who choose to be vaccinated. Some are skeptical about their safety, and prefer to “wait and see” – or even to risk avoiding vaccination totally. Moreover, many are not yet eligible for a shot. Children, in particular, and those with compromised immunity (such as transplant recipients) remain at risk. (The tests leading to the vaccines’ approval did not include children, although trials are ongoing.)
From an even broader perspective, there are not enough doses for much of the world. Calls for booster shots seem like first world privilege (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_World_privilege) to those who are still waiting for their first or second shot. And the vaccinated in the first world should care about this – quite a lot, actually. The virus doesn’t care where a potential victim lives. A mutation in an unvaccinated person in Africa or South America could lead to an infection in the US or Europe that mutates to bypass the vaccines’ protection.
In short, according to Yale infectious disease physician Dr. Jaimie Meyer:
Even though we very much want this pandemic to be over … the fact that some people, including children, aren’t vaccinated means we’re still vulnerable. … While it might be exhausting to continue to take precautions, especially for unvaccinated kids, that becomes increasingly important.
Looking ahead, therefore, businesses’ desire to be done with virus and virus precautions, and get back to business – will not simply “make it so”, despite all our progress so far (with apologies to Captain Jean-Luc Picard). Although skipping protections – eating out without a mask, or attending a concert – may be less risky today than it was in 2020, business compliance costs and burdens have not gone away.
In the face of that reality, perhaps Nirvana’s “Feels Like Teen Spirit” offers a better soundtrack for 2021 than my high school anthem in the title of this alert: “I feel stupid and contagious.”
Copyright 2021 Stanley P. Jaskiewicz, Esquire