WASHINGTON, Oct 29 (Reuters) - The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Thursday called on member companies and local community leaders to step up efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus with mask mandates and other measures to avoid another lockdown of business activity.
Chamber officials told a webcast event that businesses needed to take a leadership role in mitigation measures as new social distancing lockdowns were announced in Europe and White House officials warned of an “unrelenting” rise in COVID-19 cases that would require aggressive action.
The leaders of France and Germany ordered their countries back into lockdown mode on Wednesday as a massive second wave of coronavirus infections threatened to overwhelm Europe as winter approaches.
Neil Bradley, the U.S. Chamber’s chief policy officer, told representatives of about 800 member companies that Europe appeared to be about a month ahead of the United States in COVID-19 infections.
“If we want to avoid the experience of Europe, if we want to avoid a return to the lockdowns that they’re experiencing and that we experienced this spring, then it’s up to us,” Bradley said.
Unlike the spring, when little was known about the virus and medical guidance was mixed, mitigation measures are now clear, he said, including requiring employees to wear face masks, ensuring that they get seasonal influenza vaccine shots and maintaining social distancing.
He said the goal was to avoid the “lightswitch” approach that previously shut down major parts of the U.S. economy and had a “catastrophic” effect on small businesses.
Instead, he advocated a “dial” approach that could reduce some activity, but not shut it off entirely, and urged businesses to discuss such an approach with local officials.
“Masks, masks, masks are key,” said Marjorie Chorlins, the Chamber’s senior vice president of European affairs. “Along with social distancing and hand washing, mandating masks and public spaces is a unifying theme, and meaningful enforcement is absolutely essential.”
The officials also urged companies to support mayors, governors and other local officials in declaring mask mandates and enforcing safety protocols. (Reporting by David Lawder; editing by Richard Pullin)
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