Have you read the op-ed pieces recently? People on both coasts are clamoring for “Immunity Nights” as a way to help local businesses after Johns Hopkins professor Dorry Segev and Bloomberg School of Public Health professor Marty Makary published an opinion piece launching the idea in the Washington Post on February 25th .
Will your chamber embrace the concept? Is this a route back to normalcy and survival for your small business members or is it just a big old-fashioned First Friday? Will you or your businesses be opening yourself up to potential litigation and spread of COVID-19?
Read on for considerations, options and more information.
- the positives and the negatives of sponsoring them in your area
- what you should know first
- and what you’ll need to do if you’re hosting them.
Keep in mind, each area of the country is different.
At the time of writing this article, Texas Governor Abbott and Mississippi Governor Reeves have both lifted state-wide mask mandates. Five other states have announced their intention to let mask mandates expire including Alabama.
However, some national businesses have announced they will still require employees and customers to wear masks in their stores/businesses.
But while these leadership choices to allow people to remove masks may be driven in part by fatigue, science, or the desire to rebuild local and state economies, your area may not be willing to give up on mandated masks. Launching an Immunity Night might be a nice compromise.
However, before proposing or promoting something like this, you will need to work with local or state leaders.
Let’s dive in to what that could look like.
What Are Immunity Nights?
Backers support the idea of allowing “protected” citizenry to enjoy nights out among other higher-immunity individuals so that business can increase capacity.
Before we dive too deeply into this idea, let’s address the numbers behind this growing push.
Proponents of Immunity Nights point out that about 17% of the US population has been vaccinated against COVID and that we’re administering roughly 2 million shots daily.
This screenshot from the NPR Vaccination tracker shows the top states. The page is updated regularly and includes all 50 states and US territories here. Great job Alaska!
At a Federal Hearing that took place on February 23, 2021, officials from Pfizer and Moderna estimated that they were on track to deliver 120 million and 100 million doses respectively by the end of this month. This includes doses already administered. That translates to 110 million Americans could potentially be fully vaccinated from these doses. And that doesn’t even factor in Johnson & Johnson’s single dose vaccine which was approved on February 27th.
Moderna & Pfizer are expecting to double their shipments in April and they expect to have 600 million people vaccinated by July.
Immunity Nights proponents advocate that the vaccine should make the vaccinated safe enough to enjoy some well-needed time out and support businesses that might be on the edge of closure.
How This Idea Would Work
Businesses, like restaurants, would allow customers with documentation of immunity to enter up to 100 percent capacity on specific days or times.
No documentation, no entry.
Documentation could be in the form of a vaccination card, an app-based boarding pass or a QR code showing:
- proof of vaccination
- antibodies against the disease
- a prior positive coronavirus test
This type of documentation would require no further work than what arenas or airports do to scan tickets or bars put forth checking IDs.
Participants would have to prove immunity, making those activities potentially safer — even with larger crowds — than smaller, socially-distanced meetings now where there is no assurance of immunity.
Still, attendees wouldn’t have to give up masks if they didn’t feel comfortable without. Updated recommendations released March 8th by the CDC which says it’s now safe for vaccinated people to go maskless in small gatherings still recommend vaccinated people wear masks in public or larger crowds. One does not disqualify the other.
Another “Why” Behind Immunity Nights
As mentioned earlier, one reason is to help businesses and communities get back on their feet.
But that’s not the only reason behind them, and maybe not the most important.
A lot of people are suffering terribly from the isolation and lonliness. According to an article in Nature, “More than 42% of people surveyed by the US Census Bureau in December 2020 reported symptoms of anxiety or depression in December, an increase from 11% the previous year.”
There is a dangerous combination of spiraling mental health–paired with growing economic concerns and unease–that are taking the toll on physical health as well.
Immunity Nights would not only be an investment to a return to a healtheri economy, but also a significant contributor to a more optimistic outlook and greater morale for the community which contributes to the physical health of residents.
Stress taxes the immunity. An individual’s immunity helps them fight off disease and helps them recover more quickly when they do get ill. Loneliness and stress could be propagating COVID and Immunity Nights may help combat some of that.
Should You Launch or Propose Immunity Nights in Your Area?
There are many obvious reasons to launch this idea. They include:
- Encouraging people to get out and spend money in the community in a safe way
- Helping people feel more connected to the community
- Bringing in additional revenue for businesses
- Boosting morale in the community
- Expanding your networking to include in-person again and not just virtual events
- Further establishing your chamber as a leader in and a proponent for the businesses and the community
- Maximizing overall health and lowering stress levels by improving mental health
- Incentivizing getting vaccinated because people will be getting a “pass” to enjoy the things they used to
It may be that those reasons are more enticing to you than the cons.
A negative side of hosting or suggesting one is that some people will worry about the contagion. Assuming everyone shows genuine proof that they are protected (through past exposure or vaccination), spread or infections should not occur and masks can be worn as an additional line of defense.
The other con is that it could create a “have” verses a “have not” mentality among people who have and have not been vaccinated. If your community has experienced a hard time in getting people vaccinated because of a lack of vaccines or has a large medically-fragile or elderly population, some younger or “healthier” people may feel that this distinction is not fair. This con is likely to subside as a larger percentage of the population receives their vaccinations through the summer.
You might discover that some people will want to participate, whether or not they can show proof of immunity. How will the business host manage that potential?
Some states are expected to have vaccinations on demand (without the wait for subsections of the population to be served) by the fall.
How to Get Local Government BuyIn
In order to host Immunity Nights in your area, you may need to work with city and county leaders. It may require a board or counsel vote in your area and it could become a contentious matter.
You’ll need to decide if you’re championing these for all businesses or just particular ones like restaurants. You will also need to work with those businesses to implement how they will check immunity records for those who want to operate at 100% capacity.
As you work with local leaders, pay attention to the infection stats in your area. Changes in those could drastically affect your argument for Immunity Nights.
If you are not interested in this idea, or you worry that those types of activities could be detrimental to business because of the liability behind it, you still want to prepare yourself for this topic to become more heavily talked about among your member businesses.
As a larger number of governors embrace re-opening, you can expect the population to choose sides.
How will you position the chamber on this pivotal issue? Will you advocate 100% capacity reopening with proof of immunity or back a more conservative approach when talking about returning to normal?
Discuss it now. Your opinion will be called for shortly.
Here’s the original op-ed (if you have a Washington Post subscription): https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/02/25/lets-have-immunity-nights-keep-american-businesses-alive/