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Deputy Mayor William Chun on LA’s Plan to Reopen Retail: On The Hill

Los Angeles has embarked on the second phase of its reopening plan, and as the city looks to loosen measures that have kept retailers’ doors locked for two months, it is weighing the benefits to the economy against public health risks.

That balancing act sits squarely on the shoulders of state and local governments. In L.A., the mayor’s office is orchestrating the city’s reopening with the precision of a chess match. With every action taken to give residents a bit more freedom, the risk for further infections surges.

Deputy Mayor William Chun, who oversees economic development efforts, sat down with Sourcing Journal last week to outline the city’s strategy. Early lockdowns in L.A. prevented “a much worse scenario” like the one that played out in New York, he said, but there are trade-offs.

“On the one hand, that’s the good news, but obviously it comes at a cost,” he said, adding that the mayor’s office “knew there would be sacrifices that would have to be made” in taking action to save lives. Shutting down commerce brought “the economic engine for the city at a halt,” he said.

In phase two of the reopening, retail businesses have been allowed to open for curbside pickup, offering an avenue for the consumer who craves the instant gratification of shopping in person. As L.A. moves forward, Chun said, the city is looking at ways that businesses can reopen safely, with proper social distancing and sanitation measures in place.

The mayor’s office is providing online toolkits for businesses “to help them prep and plan” for the next phase, including guidelines for employees and shoppers alike. It will include messaging to help communicate best practices to shoppers, Chun said, helping to standardize the city’s business rules and limit confusion.

“I think that what a business has to be aware of is that not only do they have to be responsible for how employees interact, but also the customers,” he said. They also have to prepare for when, inevitably, someone in their midst is infected.

As for when the next phases of reopening will take effect, Chun said it would be “disingenuous to promise that everything will be better at a certain date, knowing that it could very well take a turn for the worse.”