AMERICA, WAKE UP!
California and New York are showing us we need to hit “pause” RIGHT NOW.
by Alexis Glick
OK, folks, we’re getting serious now. Governor Gavin Newsom of California has ordered a shelter-in-place policy for his state. New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo has just ordered New Yorkers to stay home and ordered all but essential services to halt.
They are leading the way, and echoing what I have been feeling for days.
As a Wall Streeter, CEO of a youth nonprofit reaching 38,000,000 kids, and a mom of four, I’m saying this with urgency: let’s do a one-month national holiday, and shut everything down, other than access to food (including feeding sites), pharmaceuticals, and healthcare and hospital services. And if not a month, a minimum of two weeks.
We have got to stem contagion, and we’ve got to focus.
Financier Bill Ackman feels the same way, by the way. He tweeted his advice to President Trump: shut down the U.S. for a month to contain COVID-19. Period. Close the nation’s borders, and offer Americans a one-month rent, interest, and tax holiday as a way to counter the inevitable slowdown — or stoppage — in U.S. GDP growth.
This “extended spring break” has to happen, and it has to happen now.
Look, I know leadership in a crisis like this is tough. But every day we’re being told a slightly different story — not because we’re being intentionally misled, but because we simply don’t have all the answers, either on the novel coronavirus itself, or how to deal with it.
Let me repeat: we do not have the answers.
Pausing for a month will allow us to focus solely on solutions. And in the meantime, we’ll be heeding the warnings that literally every healthcare figure here and abroad has been preaching, and wisely doing exactly what we have witnessed working in China and South Korea: we’ll be containing the spread, suppressing the contagion, and mitigating disease.
Not coming in contact with fellow citizens is job one right now. And a nationwide shutdown would enable that on a large-scale basis, not a catch-as-catch-can basis as we’re doing now. But it has to be ordered from the top — none of this county-by-county, school-district-by-school-district, or state-by-state stuff.
I don’t mean to sound like the sky is falling. But if we as a country are going to stop this thing, we cannot be cavalier, and we cannot take half-measures. I speak to CEOs, small business owners, and government leaders hourly. I am watching companies and industries that I have worked with, followed, and advised my whole career, and I see what’s coming: implosion. It is reflected in the hysterical gyrations of the stock market — with small daily spikes upon glimmers of good news one day, and financial carnage the next. I don’t see the wheels coming off the bus, I see . . . no bus!
The idea that we’re going to weather this and then simply bail out every industry as needed — airlines, hospitality, energy — is madness, but look where we are having experienced the last ten days — proposing a bailout for countless industries. Guys, this isn’t about big vs. little, who gets the bailout, who gets rich and who goes under. In this one, we all rise or fall together — and that includes the half of the economy represented by small businesses.
Let me make three points.
First, watching some of the biggest, most powerful brands and vital industries collapse before our eyes isn’t good for anyone. These companies employ millions, and support supply chains that employ countless other millions. A 30-day hiatus can stop the decline, and companies can resume operation when the crisis is passed. We’ll have saved the careers and livelihoods of owners, entrepreneurs, and employees, not to mention part-timers, hourly, commission, and union workers. It will give the capital markets a chance to catch its breath and companies — big and small — a chance to shore-up their balance sheets. It’s precisely why the IRS is giving all Americans a three month tax break.
Second, we need to act now, because things are going to get worse. The entire supply chain is being disrupted. Food banks are running out of food. Americans are hoarding, and emptying supermarket shelves. Neighbors are competing with neighbors. Countries are competing with countries. Now is not the time to point fingers at China. We need China and the rest of the world for testing, sound scientific advice, manufacturing, and capital to support our economy before we find ourselves in a protracted recession that no amount of money could heal. Now is the time to ask for and embrace any and all help we can get. A month’s breather will calm the craziness.
Third, one urgent problem that we MUST focus on is the 30 million American kids who rely for their nutrition on school meals. As I write this, 44 of 50 states have closed schools, many for the rest of the school year. That’s about 104,000 schools. Many children depend on school breakfast and school lunch for a major portion of their daily nutrition. Hungry, food-insecure kids cannot learn and thrive. If we can’t take care of these kids during school closures, we will have disenfranchised an entire generation. Pausing will allow us, as a national “community” to get feeding sites up and running effectively, put in place the manpower needed to staff them, and relieve the strain on schools, food banks and stressed caregivers who are already stretched.
Make the decision with me to push for a pause!
I’m not saying our hospital workers, grocery store employees, educators, local and national leaders haven’t been fantastic. They have, as have the individuals whose acts of kindness have made the past week bearable. And I’m not saying things are the same in Minnesota as they are in New York — they’re not — and one size doesn’t fit all, we’re a huge nation. But we cannot continue to live as though it’s acceptable for people to be “moderately at risk.” It’s not. Too many lives are at risk. More than any of us can bear to comprehend. And the economic carnage has got to be halted.
This is a time for leadership. This is a time for tough decisions, and bold thinking. It’s time for a prolonged national holiday that will make possible the focus that we need so urgently, and stop the decline that none of us can afford.
We can do this!
Alexis Glick is Chief Executive Officer of GENYOUth, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating healthier school communities through programs in partnership with the National Football League and the National Dairy Council. She is a frequent contributor to CNN on topics related to global business, the financial markets and CEO leadership trends. She advises CEOs and professional athletes.