Coast business leaders say dire COVID-19 report needs big response

Coast leaders said it’s time for the business community to step up to help stop COVID-19.
Published: Aug. 12, 2021 at 6:49 PM CDT
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BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Coast leaders said it’s time for the business community to step up to help stop COVID-19.

Thursday’s virtual meeting hosted by the Gulf Coast Business Council and Coast chambers, with state health officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs was as serious as it gets.

“If we look at the 182 people who are going to go into the hospital every day, we know that 15 percent of them are going to die,” said Dobbs. “They’re not going to make it. These people are not going to be with us for Christmas.”

And the hospitals and their staffs are struggling.

“It’s literally horrific,” said Singing River Health System CEO Lee Bond. “It is a war zone. It is the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life.”

Dobbs made the consequences of not taking the vaccine clear from a business perspective.

“What really worries me is the wave of disability, we’re about to see,” he said. “I know we’re a pro-business state and I’m a pro-business, free-market kind of guy myself. We’re about to undermine the workforce in large measure for a lot of reasons.”

GCBC president Ashley Edwards said it’s all about self-accountability.

“We realize that many of us on this call, are leaders on the Coast, business owners, CEOs,” he said. “Not only do we have a tremendous influence on over our families and our friends, but also over our employees.”

Scarlet Pearl Casino and Resort is among the few who have mandated masks for all employees, mandated vaccines for supervisors and above and offered $300 vaccine incentives for associates.

“Surprisingly, there hasn’t been as much push back as we thought,” said Ben Koff, vice president of marketing.

He said getting the buy-in required simple listening.

“We found that it’s just talking and working through and understanding where people are coming from,” Koff said. “It’s compassion, it’s taking the time to reach out, find resources, educate.”

In the end, people’s health was a gamble the casino was not willing to make.

“We’re a casino company,” Koff said. “We’re all based in numbers. And, if you look at the numbers and the odds of what’s going on and taking this vaccine as opposed to not, it’s such a clear decision.”

More than 200 people joined the virtual meeting to understand more about what to expect and what they can do to keep people healthy and business strong.

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