Top business group warns against national shutdown

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Joshua Bolten, the president and CEO of the Business Roundtable, on Tuesday, cautioned against a national shutdown of the economy to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“Our view is that a full national shutdown is not necessary under the circumstances,” he said, adding it “is likely to be overkill because it’s not necessary to protect public safety.”

Bolten stated his position after Dr. Michael Osterholm, a Biden adviser, said last week that a nationwide lockdown would help control the spread of the virus.

President-elect Joe Biden, who has entertained the idea in the past, on Monday said that he would not impose a national shutdown of the economy.

Bolten, whose organization includes the CEOs of many of the nation’s largest companies, said that many of its members have kept their operations open during the pandemic without increased risk to employees or customers because they follow social distancing rules and require masks.

“There are ways to proceed safely without jeopardizing people’s health that does permit normal activity to continue,” he said.

Bolten, like Biden, supports a national mandate for wearing a mask.

“Every locality ought to have rules about social distancing in public spaces and rules about what are the kinds of situations which people ought to be permitted to gather,” he said.

Bolten spoke as the nation suffers from a resurgence of rising coronavirus infections.

The nation went from fewer than 50,000 new coronavirus cases each day in early October to more than 150,000 in early November, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

“Look, it depends on the state,” he said, indicating that restrictions should be based on how local economies are faring with the virus.

Still, pandemic restrictions are being imposed all over the country due to the increase in virus infections.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, both Democrats, issued two-week lockdown orders for their respective states on Friday.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, also a Democrat, tightened restrictions for public and private gatherings.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, a Republican, limited indoor dining in restaurants to 50% capacity.

Also, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney on Monday announced that indoor dining will be prohibited at restaurants, gyms will be closed, and indoor gatherings at home will be restricted starting on Friday.

Bolten said the spike in coronavirus infections across much of the country is a good reason for a relief package during the lame-duck session of Congress.

He said the legislation should include aid to small businesses because many of them feed supplies to the larger corporations that belong to the Business Roundtable.

“The average Business Roundtable member has at least a couple thousand small business suppliers,” he said. “Our members are very concerned about the health of small businesses and that they might not be able to survive [a lockdown order].”

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