It’s hard to believe we are quickly approaching the official two-year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since its initial onset, coronavirus has spread extensively through multiple virus variants resulting in nearly 80 million cases and approaching 900,000 total deaths nationwide. In the last two years, the Arizona Department of Health Services reports nearly 1.8 million cases and is approaching 26,000 total COVID deaths in Arizona since the pandemic started. Unfortunately, with the recent onset of the Delta and subsequently the Omicron variant, these numbers continue to rise and impact the local economy and consumer sentiment. According to data from the recently released Q4 Arizona Business Index™ (ABI™) Report, 75% of Arizona consumers indicated they were somewhat or very concerned about COVID-19 from an economic perspective, and 61% expressed concern from an employment perspective. As the pandemic continues on, data shows a decline in consumer sentiment, economic optimism, and job satisfaction.
Fortunately, we have also seen remarkable progress and innovation to help us combat COVID-19. The arrival of multiple vaccination options has resulted in nearly 210.5 million people fully vaccinated in the U.S. and 84.3 million people receiving the recent FDA-approved booster dose. In Arizona, we are approaching 10.5 million total doses administered with 72.4% of eligible people in the state vaccinated. And, according to the ABI™ Q4 data, 80% of consumers indicated that they have already received the vaccine, or plan to do so. These vaccination numbers continue to bring renewed hope that we are on a positive path towards a healthier community and economic recovery as we emerge from the pandemic. But we can still do better! If you have not done so already, I urge you to make an appointment to receive the vaccine through Maricopa County’s Vaccine Data Dashboard and/or Arizona Department of Health Services’ Vaccine Patient Portal. Vaccines are also accessible through several of our health care members such as CVS. We appreciate their dedication to fighting the virus, administering tests and vaccines, and keeping the community safe and healthy. For companies in need of testing solutions, our members Sonora Quest, Saguaro Bloom, and binx health can serve as resources for you. As new vaccines emerge and testing is limited, I urge the community to continue to be patient, but diligent while maintaining social distancing and healthy sanitation efforts.
As Arizona and businesses continue to navigate through the reopening process and we begin the new legislative session, the Chamber will be at the forefront advocating for business recovery and pro-workforce policies. Employer freedom is critical to keeping business and the economy moving forward, and we firmly believe each individual business leader is the best authority to make decisions for their business to operate work safely and effectively. The Chamber will continue to oppose mandates on both sides of the vaccine issue while encouraging mitigation measures to keep our communities safe and provide resources and information to our members.
There’s no doubt, the pandemic’s effect on business has been substantial. We look at the way business is done very differently than we did two years ago, the Chamber included. Throughout the past two years, our team has had many discussions on the future of remote work and how our new office space will best accommodate our staff and members. We look forward to working in a hybrid format while opening the doors to our new office in early spring. I encourage businesses to be open-minded as we adapt to these new circumstances, so you can emerge successful and prosperous.
The Chamber remains a steadfast ally of businesses as we continue to navigate through the pandemic and adjust to our “new normal.” I encourage businesses to follow local, state, and federal safety measures designed to slow and stop the spread of COVID-19, restoring the health and vitality of our community and our economy. If we continue to work together and stay positive, I am confident a more prosperous, healthy Arizona is on the horizon!