About a dozen people were named to a committee whose responsibility it will be to guide the East Hampton Town economy’s return to normal. Among the members of the new Business Recovery Group, which convened by videoconference on April 29, are several from the resort industry, a restaurateur, a builder, a gym owner, and a wine merchant. Conspicuously missing from the list is a single medical professional (though we have been promised a medical representative will be soon named), or anyone at all representing emergency medical services. This is a devastating oversight.
It is no insignificant thing that the group has been tasked with: coordinating state guidelines with the needs of East Hampton businesses, to create a customized plan for re-opening. The group’s members will help determine how and when employees can return to work, and under what terms customers will be allowed into stores, hotels, restaurants, and entertainment venues. They will also have to judge the probability of a resurgence.
The East Hampton Town Board put this group together, and they got it dangerously wrong. First responders and medical experts should have been appointed first to take the lead on science-based decisions and the implementation of critical policy that will not just impact our economy but that could put citizens’ lives in danger if done wrong. With medical professionals in the lead, representatives of the business community should next have been asked to join, to contribute their important perspective.
We do not want to knock any of the group members, who are volunteering their time and expertise, who surely have high intentions and are undertaking their work with the utmost gravity. They are to be commended. But this is no time to be shunning expertise. However experienced and intelligent they may be, businesspeople should not be called upon to interpret public-health policy, and East Hampton residents should not be content with the composition of this well-meaning group.
Anyone with their eyes open can see that the summer of 2020 will be more crowded than ever, as city folk avoid airplanes and international travel. Real estate friends tell us that rentals are going, going, gone. The pressure is enormous. And, in this context, it is natural that E.M.S. volunteers, in particular, should be eyeing the discussions of the Business Recovery Group with anxiety. Indeed, some have already been in touch with us to say so.
Public health decisions should not be made without the guidance of medical professionals and our highly trained first responders — the pandemic’s true first line of defense.