Gary Horton | Which Way, Falling or Flying Again?

Gary Horton

A couple of grim statistics popped out this week in the mainstream press. (Otherwise known as the Real News.) First, America’s COVID-19 deaths have now passed the shocking numbers America lost during the Spanish flu n 1918-1920. We’ve officially passed 675,00 deaths, and that not accounting for the likely hundreds of thousands of uncounted — the abject poor, the uninsured, the excessively rural – who died never making it to a hospital or gaining treatment. 

Still, COVID-19 remains much less virulent than the Spanish Flu was back then, as today we have three times the population but the same number of deaths. But the threat from the Spanish Flu was always its variants, and today is no different than then. 

Either we put this virus down and get it fully under control, or we as a nation and world risk it evolving into something far, far deadlier.  

And this is where the anti-science, anti-vaxxers have all Americans over a barrel and at great risk. Until we all work together, as a country, united, to kill this thing, it will continue on indefinitely intruding into our lives and families and health. We need only look to the stubborn Southern states currently getting hammered with sickness and deaths at rates 2 to 4 times higher than California. Their hospitals are again overflowing. Their health care workers are melting down and some quitting. But in the South the mortuary business is booming.  

And, speaking of business and COVID-19: Last week the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corp. held its first state of affairs meeting in public, with real people meeting in a real room. Everyone was masked up. It was great to see folks with real eyeballs to real eyeballs. We’ve all been Zoomed past exhaustion in our prior meetings, so this was a real treat. A taste of normalcy. But still, just a taste. 

COVID-19 Delta remains active, and meetings like this could turn into mega-spreaders if things were handled like a Donald Trump rally, with no masks and tons of close contact. The SCVEDC is composed largely our city’s most active business leaders and these folks know firsthand not to mess with COVID-19, as they and their businesses already wrestled with it for 18 months. 

We discussed lots of facts and figures about SCV’s economic experience and health during the COVID-19 pandemic. You may recall back in March 2020 when COVID-19 first exploded, most businesses were in a state of shock and pause. What would happen? What shoe would drop? A second Great Recession? Just what? 

Well, COVID-19 turned out to be a wily virus, impacting businesses in varied ways. Some, like cruise lines and amusement parks, restaurants and hotels, were flattened for most of these past 18 months with thousands of layoffs just in the SCV. Losses exploded. Dread and despair became the reality for all business executives and employees engages in these industries. 

Yet for others, such as construction, medical, home improvement, real estate – things strangely picked up and improved and many businesses are doing record business. Homebuilders still can’t build fast enough! 

Such a strange and seemingly unfair outcome for our city’s businesses. Fortunately, we’re opening back up, nearly across the board. Yes, there’s a lot of ground to make up for many businesses, but nearly everyone is hiring – the “We’re hiring” signs are nearly in every business window. If you’re unemployed and you want a job – boy, you can have your pick of nearly thousands right now. The SCV is short thousands of workers still – and it’s a good time to upgrade your career, if you happen to be looking. 

Wages are up. Prices are up. Inflation is up – but hopefully only temporarily. We’ll get to see what happens on that count. In past pandemics, there’s usually a time of great economic expansion. I hope our leaders in Washington and here in California get it right. We can use this interruption to reengineer many things toward great improvement. From how we educate, to travel, to tax, for social equity, and medical access – so much is up for grabs and can be improved to make America greater than ever. If we get it right. If we approach the challenge together with a united purpose, Democrat, Republican and independent, to actively improve our society. Let’s see if we have the civility and decency to collaboratively work together. 

Still, the virus persists. Still, the virus poses existential threats to all. Southern states currently suffering might transmit a variant back our way. Something could still pop out in California and drive cases back up. 

The takeaway point of the SCVEDC meeting, in my opinion, was this: The SCV took quite a hit and some of us got severely hurt. But collaboratively, we worked to rebound as effectively and efficiently as possible. Right now, we’re gaining speed back to full normalcy in nearly all businesses and in one to two years we should be well above where we were before all this pandemic nightmare happened. 

But – and this is a big “but.” We must see COVID-19 all the way to the dustbin of our memories. We can’t let our guard down. We can’t just make believe it’s not real. Our community, as our entire state, and entire nation, must vaccinate whenever possible. We must mask up in close social settings. We must still wash hands and clean workspaces and take all reasonable precautions against COVID-19. And this is what almost all our business leaders want: 

Let’s recover our businesses as quickly as possible. And this means we absolutely must put up the best fight against COVID-19 we can. Please, vaccinate. Ungrudgingly wear masks when needed. Be mindful and clean in your workspaces. Let’s get the SCV, L.A., California, and the USA COVID-19-free, once and for all. And let’s get back to business as usual. 

We have a promising future ahead. Please, let’s not blow it now when we see some light at the end of our COVID-19 tunnel. Do your part for all your neighbors and coworkers and fellow Californians and Americans. 

Thank you from the SCVEDC for helping to rebuild our SCV economy to better than ever! 

Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Signal or its editorial board.

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