Home Coronavirus Audio: Gov. Northam’s Chief of Staff “Very Very Hopeful” About Starting to...

Audio: Gov. Northam’s Chief of Staff “Very Very Hopeful” About Starting to Get Businesses Back Up and Running by May 8

Also rips Sen. Amanda Chase for putting out "an absolute falsehood that the governor was gonna close everything"; says "we want businesses thriving...this is something everyone wants"

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Interesting comments this morning (on Trumpster radio; don’t get me started on the million reasons why Democrats should not be going on right-wing media) by Gov. Ralph Northam’s Chief of Staff, Clark Mercer, about getting Virginia businesses back up and running quickly, but “with responsibility” and “get this right.” Mercer also had some pointed comments, very much merited, about people like Sen. Amanda Chase (R) putting out “misinformation…an absolute falsehood that the governor was gonna close everything.” Mercer noted that legislators are on “phone calls two or three times a week with members of our team, and we let them ask any question under the sun that they want, provide any input they want,” yet “a lot of the folks that we hear from by press release or to come on the radio have not asked a single question, have not made a single comment to the governor, to myself or to our team.” Yes, Sen. Chase, he’s referring to people like you.

Clark Mercer: “I’m feeling pretty pumped up this morning and good about the way Virginia has handled this and the way Virginians have responded thus far. And I’m very very hopeful moving forward that we will be able, in a very thoughtful and common-sense sort of way, to work with the business community to be able to get these businesses back up and running.

“And May 8th, I want to make sure we are clear about what that is and what that isn’t. We never sought out to, in Virginia, articulate a list of every quote/unquote essential business under the sun. Other states did that, and I don’t think it was, in lots of examples, handled well. We simply listed a set of non-essential businesses where there’s a lot of physical interaction and gathering. The other non-essential business – your mom-and-pop stores, the toy store, the clothing store…those kind of shops have remained open this entire time, albeit you know social distancing in place and limiting to to crowds of 10 or less…you’ve been able to buy a flag and buy seed and go out and get a handgun from the sporting goods shop all along, those shops have never closed. It’s the theaters, the restaurants, the massage parlors, the tattoo parlors, that it’s just another two weeks. And the reason for that…is we want to make sure we work with and have the private sector lead the effort to getting those types of businesses back open responsibly. This is not going to be something that the government can run on its own and run well. The folks that own those businesses…wan to open responsibly and they know their businesses better than anyone under the sun. So we’re reaching out to barber shop owners, brewery owners, restaurant owners…”

“Look, you know, we’re not out of the woods yet by any stretch of the imagination…Yesterday the governor reported 40…new deaths; we will be over 200 deaths today. We are very hopeful that we’re bending the curve; it looks like we are, which is good, and that’s because of what Virginians have done. But when we do have these businesses back open, we want to make sure they’re back open responsibly. So that’s not anywhere near an indefinite closure; it’s not, you know, August or something like that…it’s two weeks, and it gives us time to get those non-essential businesses. The other ones that I talked about have been open the entire time. And I think the president today will, you know, articulate some measures to responsibly reopen; I know he’s focused on that as well, and has May 1st kind of circled as a date for areas where there really are cases where folks feel safer about reopening. I think he’ll probably note in other areas probably need to be slower reopening. But we are kind of laser focused on this, and the governor, we had two meetings this morning before I got on the phone, and we were talking about these different businesses. And the governor was suggesting some names and making sure that we’re pulling in the private sector to help lead us out of it.”

Fredericks: So is May 8 going to “be the date when all businesses can reopen within certain guidelines?”

Mercer’s response: “Yeah, so that’s a Friday May 8th. And between now and then, John, we’re not just going to wait until May 8th and lay out everything we’re thinking. The governor’s going to articulate that between now and May 8th and make sure we’re doing this in a responsible way. But the goal is certainly to get these businesses back up and running. And you know, John, I was listening to the the founder of Home Depot the other night, certainly a very successful individual, and he was talking about the fact that consumers need confidence. You know, after 9/11, it’s not like folks were excited to get back on a plane right away. And it took some confidence, the government putting out some general guidelines, but then the private sector really doing what they do best, which is leading by example to show consumers that, hey, we’re ready for business and we’re taking the appropriate steps…we need to make sure that over the next couple weeks we’re putting out the guidelines and and you know projecting that confidence that that we’re going to be able to open these businesses with responsibility…so I’m pretty confident that over the next you know few weeks we’re going to be able to to get this right.”

Has there been an overreaction to COVID-19? Mercer: “Misinformation doesn’t help and yesterday you had a state senator on who spread up an absolute falsehood that the governor was gonna close everything… I can’t speak for where Amanda Chase gets her information and how she interprets it, and there’s a number of things she says that sometimes I scratch my head about. We put our General Assembly members on phone calls two or three times a week with members of our team, and we let them ask any question under the sun that they want, provide any input they want. I will tell you, a lot of the folks that we hear from by press release or to come on the radio have not asked a single question, have not made a single comment to the governor, to myself or to our team. And then we hear these kind of, you know, these kind of comments and we just, you know, we just say wow, would have been nice they’ve been asked that question…

…There is modeling, John, as you know very well. We don’t know a lot about this virus… everyone assumes that the virus might go away when it gets hot. You look around the world at some pretty hot countries where this virus is doing quite well. So that’s making us reconsider that this might not be a seasonal virus. And at least one of the models said you know, if you throw a light switch back on and completely ignore social distancing and this thing gets hot again, then late summer you could see another big spike. And that’s a fact, that’s just the fact, and I don’t think Virginians are gonna do that. I assume Amanda [Chase] heard that and thought, well, therefore…they’re just going to shut everything down indefinitely, which is a very big leap to take – I’ll be charitable and say that was just a bad interpretation of something she heard and I’ll just leave it at that. But the governor made the comment the other day, and look, the precautions we’ve put into place are working. That’s why the numbers aren’t as bad as it could be, and that’s a great thing. The worst thing, John, is we’ve done all this stuff and inflicted all this pain on small businesses and the steps we have taken aren’t working. I mean how furious would everyone be?

…Look, it’s the middle of April, we’ve always talked about May being the time frame to start taking some logical steps to quote unquote reopen…I think Governor Cooper talks about not…switching the light switch on and off, but it’s a dimmer switch and increasing that dimmer bit by bit until it’s back on. I think that’s a good visual to think about…The point is the stuff that we’re doing is working and that’s a good thing, and the numbers reflect that. And if the numbers were horrible then what we’re doing isn’t working and we’d be even in a worse spot. So I think this is a tough spot right now, because we’re several weeks in and we’re seeing what it’s done to the economy…We want businesses thriving…this is something everyone wants, it’s not political in Virginia…let’s get through this together.”