Plan contains strategy for businesses in times of pandemic

By Cortney Herbert 

for SB South Coast Chamber of Commerce

Amid the biggest public health crisis and resulting economic devastation to the local economy, the Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce (SBSCC) has worked with government leaders, public health officials, residents, parents, and the business community to respond to, and understand, COVID-19 guidelines.

Over almost a year, the request from the business community has been to have a clear and actionable plan that supports continuous and safe business operations.

The chamber’s Roadmap to Recovery is the culmination of months of industry specific-focus groups and offers a plan of action for chamber members and the business community designed to allow businesses to operate with the utmost safety.

Kirsten McLaughlin, SBSCC Board chair and Cox Communications market vice president, explains why the chamber initiated the plan:

“An important part of our role is to advocate for our members and community,” she said. “The Roadmap to Recovery is the chamber’s response to a lack of clear guidance that supports a balanced response to COVID-19.

“This response equally considers the health and safety of our community and the long-term social and economic impacts of business and school closures.”

The Roadmap to Recovery directs the community to operate under the COVID Safety 5-Step Plan. Incorporating CDC guidelines and requirements pulled from Santa Barbara County’s attestation process, the following five steps have been shown to be the most effective responses to operating safely.

 SBSCC proposes all business should be able to operate, as long as they successfully apply the COVID Safety 5-Step Method.

1. Mask requirements: Everyone should wear a mask because they are proven to work. Plan to wear masks until at least June.

2. Sanitize: Continue to implement strict cleaning procedures. Minimize touch, wipe down surfaces, use hand sanitizer and have it readily available.

3. Social distancing: Everyone should keep a minimum of 6 feet apart at all times; however the chamber recommends a 10-feet-apart rule. Affix directional and distance signage to indicate rules and processes to adhere to this policy. Shaking hands and gathering are not allowed. Finally, monitor the number of people in an establishment, and minimize unnecessary contact to less than 15 minutes.

4. Ventilation needs: Maintain proper ventilation inside and, whenever possible, conduct business outside. For all businesses that operate inside, use newly proven ventilation methods that clean the air.

5. Plexiglass and barriers: The chamber recommends all businesses use barriers, like plexiglass or plastic curtains, to add an extra level of protection. This is also a useful tool to reenforce social distancing.

The overall plan includes sector-specific research and guidance and more detail to support recovery. The sectors include: agribusiness, arts/culture, childcare, education, healthcare/mental health, lodging/hospitality/tourism, manufacturing/technology, nonprofits/philanthropy, restaurants/wineries/breweries, and retail.

Within the Roadmap to Recovery are milestones, timelines and metrics to guide decisions that support a safely functioning economy.

Larry Doris of Agilent Technologies was the SBSCC board member who led the manufacturing and technology sector group. With regards to the importance of the chamber’s industry specific process, he said, “In a fast-moving industry like technology, the uncertainty of the world in both the short- and long-term was concerning.

“By convening business leaders, elected officials and employees by industry, we were able to identify paths that allowed each group to move forward with direction and contribute to a healthy business community and economy.”

Within the next six months, the plan recommends:

  • Policymakers will use more data to make decisions.
  • Businesses will open, using the COVID Safety 5-Step Method.
  • Everyone has the choice and ability to be vaccinated.
  • Schools will reopen on-campus.
  • Small group travel and events will resume, including weddings, meetings and sports.

“The last 10 months of the pandemic has given us valuable information about how to safely reopen and operate our businesses,” said Trevor Large, SBSCCC first vice chair and attorney at Fauver, Large, Archbald & Spray. “This roadmap is based upon reliable data and effective processes that supports a prudent economic reopening and recovery.”

“I think the SBCCC Roadmap to Recovery has a great potential to help businesses navigate the COVID regulations as we get closer to a life of normalcy,” said Karen Graf, SBSCC Board member and manager of Hilltop Flowers.

In the coming weeks, the chamber will continue to help businesses navigate current restrictions and encourage elected officials to implement this plan allowing the community to safely get back to work. The significant timeline goals include: 

Immediately: Ensure elected officials include all available data when making policy decisions and consider the economic, social and public health impacts.

Immediately: Local government officials introduce a resolution supporting businesses to operate safely without sacrificing other aspects of personal and community well-being.

Feb. 1 to March 31: Businesses should be allowed to operate if they are following the COVID Safety 5-Step Method.

March 1: Schools should be able to open using the same COVID Safety 5-Step Method. Santa Barbara Unified School District and Goleta Union School District should be allowed to open as other South Coast districts have been operating safely.

April 30: Everyone in the community who wants to get vaccinated should be able to do so.

May 31: Small business meetings, weddings and gatherings should be permitted following standard safety protocols and best practices.

“Since the early days of COVID-19, the chamber’s weekly business briefings offered insight from a team of valuable advisors,” said Anne Pazier, owner of Santa Barbara Gift Baskets and the board’s retail industry champion. “As an entrepreneur, I understand how it can be lonely navigating the constantly evolving regulations and these weekly briefings kept me afloat.

“Their support is not only emotional, but practical. Now, with the Roadmap to Recovery, they have created benchmarks providing further concrete directives that can help us forge ahead.”

For a more detailed view of the plan and specifics related to the dates indicated, visit