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7 UpFront: Detroit Regional Chamber on COVID-19 response in Detroit

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Posted at 6:50 PM, Sep 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-28 20:14:26-04

(WXYZ) — The Detroit Regional Chamber has been working since the COVID-19 pandemic first emerged in Michigan to keep residents and businesses informed.

"We're looking at this whole COVID crisis, really, in three parts. First, it was a response part. What is COVID? What is PPE? What do I need to do? What does it mean to be shut down? How do I take care of my employees? How do I take care of my family? And then, of course, there was the restart. As we slowly started to open up, how do we get businesses up and running again? Especially when you consider manufacturing. How do you do that safely? Or even a small business, how do you do that? And then, of course, hopefully soon, we'll be in a recovery phase where we can start getting these businesses up and really running again," Baruah says about their response.

They've reached out to everyone from medical to government experts to bring the information to metro Detroiters.

"I tell everyone, really, this whole recovery effort, the whole post COVID effort, really depends on us getting a handle on the virus. It all starts with that, because, even if were to open up every business and remove every restriction there is about a third of our population that is going to shelter-in-place regardless because they don't trust what's out there and there's probably good reasons for that," he says. "They might have a health condition. They might have a pre-existing condition. They might be over 60 and 65, and that population is very vulnerable. So we have to get a handle on the virus. That is, kind of, the baseline, but we're going to have to rebuild, especially our small businesses, across the region. We are expecting nationally to lose 25% of our small businesses, probably more in key sectors like restaurants, and really even more in places like the city of Detroit where most of our small businesses are owned by people of color and they're being hit much, much harder than the average small business nationally."

We're joined by Detroit Regional Chamber President and CEO Sandy Baruah to talk about their efforts in tonight's 7 UpFront segment.

You can see the full interview in the video player above.

"Everyone needs to take a breath and realize there is no perfect answer here, everyone is dealing with something new. As of now, there are only 125, roughly, cases of positive COVID cases in the K-12 system. There are far fewer outbreaks in the university system in Michigan, but they have larger numbers of actual cases," he says. "So we're seeing, of the 1.5 million school children in the state of Michigan, about 1 million of them are back, either full-time or part-time in the classroom, and we only have about 125 cases.

"Finally, I'd say real quickly, it is really imperative that we get kids back in school, especially for those children who come from underprivileged and under resources communities. They don't have the capability, most of the time, to effectively learn from home," Baruah says.

He also says they're work isn't done.

"We are working overtime, with not just ourselves, but with our partners across the state and, particularly, with the US Chamber of Commerce, on things like ensuring there's a second round of PPP funding for our small businesses, to ensure that the forgiveness piece for the small business PPP, Paycheck Protection Plan, loans is enacted," he says. "We also have to make sure that states have the resources they need, especially to do things like ensure that the schools in their states, including here in Michigan, have the resources that they need to bring back students safely."