By Scot Harden
We are in the fight of our lives, facing challenges and disruptions to our normal way of life unprecedented for several generations. What we do next will determine whether we slide into full economic depression or fight our way back out of this and get back to a semblance of normalcy within the next year. No doubt the information coming out of Washington and our state governments is conflicted and politics is playing as much a role as science and common sense. We have seen draconian measures implemented that have impacted countless businesses, industries and ultimately lives. The Power Sports industry is bearing more than its share of the pain and is especially vulnerable. Depending on how our industry is viewed by our leaders and policy makers in Restart scenarios will be crucial. Following is one possible Restart scenario from a paper by John Marburger. In it he outlined some basic principles guiding the Restart of the economy based on detailed research of the Covid-19 virus impact and the corressponding results of mitigation efforts of various countries and individual US states. I’ve added my own thoughts in parantheses. Interestingly enough data shows that regardless of when Stay At Home orders were implemented by various US states they all converge at similar declining death rates starting about April 5th. Here are 9 parameters for Restarting the economy.
Low population density communities and areas of low infection should be encouraged to open up as soon as locally deemed possible. (This accounts for approx. 90% of the country and should impact the majority of Power Sports businesses).
All at risk individuals, by virtue of age or comorbidity should continue to follow shelter in place guidelines to the maximum individual extent tolerable. (Conversely, the other 80% of the population should get back to their normal lives, using proper precautions).
Outdoor activities and other business operations where reasonable distancing is possible and where chance of infection is low should be restarted, especially once science gives us accurate data about infection chances outdoors. (This includes all Power Sports related actvities including racing, riding and day-to-day operations at motorcycle distributors, aftermarket companies and dealerships).
Working from home when possible should continue to be encouraged. (This would include all motorcycle distributors and aftermarket companies).
Antibody testing is incredibly critical to understanding the course of this epidemic. The widespread dissemination and accuracy of a testing kit is second only to vaccine development in this battle. (Power Sports businesses should encourage staff members that travel extensively, especially overseas to get tested, however I recognize this is a matter of personal choice and individual rights to make decisions impacting his/her own body should be respected).
Antibody positive individuals and low risk individuals should be informed of their risk and assured that their community has the knowledge and capacity to advise and care for them if they get sick. (We must not lose sight of the fact that only a very small percentage of those infected experience severe symptoms requiring hospitalization).
Given that this disease does cause death in a fraction of a percent of young healthy people, we must not seek infection, yet at the same time realize that if a vaccine does not emerge, then herd immunity is our next greatest hope. Without a vaccine or this “herd” immunity, no matter when we open up society for everyone, this virus will begin to spread in some fashion again and may lead to future shut downs.
Iterative approaches are paramount. We must continue to look at new data and be quick to modify actions if necessary. (As I pointed out in last month’s columns, we are in unchartered territory. We must constantly check our progress to see what is working and what is not and adjust our actions accordingly).
Increase dissemination of accurate and timely data. The public needs to know risks so that it can make informed decisions on a personal level for their family and community. (This is the most important point to consider. As a country we have given away our civil liberties and individual freedoms to levels unimaginable just one month ago. We’ve done so out of respect for our system of government and trust in our leaders. We have every right to expect that we are given accurate information and provided a plan forward that does the most to give us back our lives. It’s reasonable to assume that the vast majority of Americans process news and data, and calculate that self-quarantining, wearing masks, and social distancing make sense for themselves, their families, and the country. Free people act out of self-preservation, but they shouldn’t be coerced to act through the authoritarian whims of the state. Yet this is exactly what’s happening).
There is no question this is going to be a long, slow road back to normalcy, and even then we may not get 100% back to the lifestyle we enjoyed just one month ago. In the meantime we need to be doing everything we can to speak with a collective voice, to lobby our politicians and policymakers to make sure Power Sports is not left on the side of the trail. Now, more than ever the MIC, AMA and various dealer groups should be working together on a strategic plan to make sure our voices are heard. And we should be taking on these challenges individually on the local level with our local Chamber of Commerce, local town councils and other business groups to make sure they are aware of the impact of Power Sports on the local economy. We are in the fight of our lives. Time to take the gloves off!