Area business leaders, along with The Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, on Tuesday announced the launch of a new campaign to encourage safety protocols beyond the workplace so that local businesses can continue to serve the community during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The Keep West Alabama Working campaign will seek to encourage area residents to wear face masks in public, practice social distancing, and wash hands — not only at work — but at home and when in the community to prevent the further spread of the virus.
The initiative comes amid a sustained rise in new virus cases for Tuscaloosa, as well as high inpatient numbers at DCH Regional Medical Center. As of Tuesday, DCH reported 94 inpatient COVID-19 cases across its three-hospital system, with 28 of those being treated in intensive care units. Countywide, Tuesday saw its overall case total rise to 3,675 and 58 virus-related deaths.
Chamber President and CEO Jim Page said in a statement Tuesday that community business leaders must strive to make west Alabama a place for economic prosperity for all, which will be made possible through exercising necessary precautions to thwart an increased progression of a virus that has already had a sizable economic impact, even on the local level.
“We must work together to protect community health, to support our economic base, and to keep our local businesses open and employees working," he said. "This is a great reminder to our community that COVID-19 safety goes beyond the workplace.”
The Chamber pointed out in a press release that at the height of the lockdown and in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the area's manufacturers and businesses idled their operations, putting thousands out of work, which in part resulted in Alabama’s unemployment rate increasing from 3.5% in March to 13.8% in April.
While local business leaders have acknowledged the importance of getting back to work, the new campaign will underscore the importance of promoting best practices in all facets of life and following set guidelines in the community to ensure that businesses stay in operation.
Phil Tucker, plant manager of BFGoodrich Tuscaloosa Manufacturing, said in a statement Tuesday that the simple act of wearing a mask can save lives, while also potentially mitigating any additional stress on the health of the workforce.
"By following protocols issued by public health experts, we can help prevent the further spread of COVID-19 and ensure the safe, responsible continuation of our operations and that of other employers in our community, from industry to small businesses,” he said.
In an effort to boost the campaign and community engagement, the Chamber is also encouraging residents to share the reasons they wear a mask through photos of themselves wearing a face mask and by tagging the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama on social media.