Edward Lomena

Eating at restaurants, going to a big game and enjoying a friend’s hug or handshake were all part of our lives just a few months ago and we all want them to be part of our routines again as soon as possible. Our success in making our lives “normal” again after COVID-19 is making our work and play spaces safe through our shared actions.

But as the vast majority of us change our lives to make sure our family, friends, coworkers and neighbors stay healthy, there is a national push to allow corporations to play by different rules than the rest of us, and get immunity from acting reasonably to limit COVID-19 exposure.

Sen. Mitch McConnell is backing corporate interests to convince the public that the economy is more important than employees’ health. 

No one should have to choose between making a living and life itself. It’s a false premise. We can and should have the ability to go back to work in safe places, especially those most at risk and who need their jobs the most.

We continue to see horror stories from coronavirus “hot spots” such as nursing homes and food processing plants, where precautions were not taken seriously — and now these industries are asking for legal immunity to continue their operations. Their workers are underpaid and need their jobs to survive. Allowing these corporations special dispensation just gives them permission to skirt the rules again and continue to put the public health at risk.

Not every business is a bad actor, but giving broad immunity to certain industries means that those who don’t act in good faith have an advantage over those who follow the rules. And consumers, employees and most businesses understand this basic unfairness.

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A national poll by Hart Research found that almost two-thirds of voters oppose legislation that would guarantee immunity to businesses. And that opposition enjoys rare bipartisan support: Democrats (72 percent), Unaffiliateds (64 percent) and Republicans (56 percent) — all oppose efforts to give liability immunity to businesses involving COVID-19. President Trump’s supporters also oppose immunity by 54 percent.

Stopping COVID-19 and the novel coronavirus is a shared responsibility for all of us. The answer is clear, science-based guidelines that businesses can follow to keep consumers, employees and their owners safe. It’s the only solution until a vaccine or broad immunity is developed.

Small business owners have made their position clear to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce: Immunity should be the lowest priority of the federal government. 

Let’s not allow distractions pushed by special interests who are only interested in profits to undermine the sacrifices we have already made in battling the virus. Let science and public health experts be the guide down the path to recovery. Allowing businesses to reopen without accountability and rules just means a longer road to success and more spread of disease. In the long term, it won’t help the economy — and more importantly, it won’t help protect us from the pandemic. 

Edward Lomena is a Colorado Springs attorney and member of the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association Board of Directors.

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