How and when businesses reopen during COVID is largely contingent on in what state and county you are located. However, there are certain health and logistical protocols to follow to ensure that you open up safely.
We’ve put together a business reopening guidebook to help you develop a plan to operate safely during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Generalized strategy for safe reopening
1. Maximize safety through infection prevention measures
One of the best things businesses can do to reopen the right way is to put an emphasis on hygiene. This practice will take many different forms. Perhaps one of the most beneficial methods for ensuring a hygienic work environment is to actively encourage sick employees to stay home.
Any employee who exhibits the following symptoms might possibly have contracted Covid-19 and should wait at least 14 days before returning to the workplace: fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, or diarrhea.
It is important to note that one can transmit the virus while asymptomatic: the virus will spread between persons during the period before it manifests in the form of the symptoms mentioned above. This means that it is not enough to simply avoid persons who are clearly sick with symptoms consistent with Covid-19.
2. Encourage mask wearing
Another effective tool for mitigating the spread of Covid-19 in your place of business is with diligent and strict enforcement of mask-wearing. Covid-19 spreads in water droplets from one’s nasal passages; therefore, physical barriers which stop transmission of those droplets is an effective means by which to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Note that a mask is effectively rendered useless if it does not cover both the nose and mouth as airway droplets can move freely from both.
3. Improve the ventilation in your building
Another important aspect to ensuring that your business is as safe as possible is to improve ventilation. Covid-19 is most easily spread with person to person contact, especially within 6 feet of distance. This kind of transmission occurs most often in indoor spaces with poor ventilation. For this reason, high functioning ventilation systems and use of outdoor spaces are optimal ways to mitigate transmission.
- Ensuring that your ventilation system is operating properly
- Opening windows and doors to the outside when possible
- Using outdoor seating
- Disabling demand-controlled ventilation
- Improving air filtration systems to MERV-13
- Running the HVAC system at maximum capacity for 2 hours before and after occupancy of your building
4. Develop an infectious disease preparation and response plan
Developing a clearly delineated plan for how to adapt your business to an outbreak of infectious disease is one prudent measure to take in the reopening process. This plan will contain several facets, including the following points:
- Understanding at which points throughout the day your employees could be exposed to Covid-19. This might include contact with the general public, contact with those at high risk for infection (international travelers or health care workers, for example)
- Work staff risk factors (e.g. staff with preexisting conditions or of advanced age) and steps to offset those risks
- Plan to offset increased absence among employees (allowing for days off for those who are sick is one of the most important steps to take to mitigate Covid transmission)
- Contingencies for disruption in your supply chain
- Steps to improve your business’ hygienics
- Procedures and policies for identification and removal of sick employees and patrons
- Communication of sick leave policies and flexibility in its utilization (do not require a healthcare provider note to validate sick days)
- Provide staff and patrons with personal protective equipment (PPE)
5. Consider on-site Covid-19 testing for your business
Regular testing is another important tool in preventing Covid transmission. Transmission of the virus can be subtle insofar as hosts can transmit the virus for several days before manifesting symptoms of the virus. This means that, potentially, anyone can transmit the virus without warning.
For this reason, regular testing of staff can be an effective means by which to limit the spread of Covid-19. Service providers like Drip Hydration will bring Covid-19 tests directly to your business. Our services will include both PCR swab tests and rapid antigen testing depending on the needs of your particular business.
Region-specific reopening information
As of 11/16, 41 of 58 counties, including Los Angeles county, are in the most restricted tier in terms of its tiered reopening plan. California is experiencing a spike in both positive Covid-19 tests and hospitalizations related to the virus. This tier restricts the opening of businesses deemed high risk for transmitting the virus, particularly those which facilitate indoor seating and accommodation. In order to progress to subsequent stages within the tiered reopening plan, counties must both have remained at their current stage for 3 weeks, as well as demonstrated Covid numbers consistent with the subsequent stage’s threshold for 2 weeks.
Businesses are classified within this stratum according to a variety of variables, including the ability to accommodate mask wearing at all times, allowance of physical distance between patrons, ventilation, the nature of its activity (signing or heavy breathing is penalized), and more.
More information on California’s recovery plan can be found here.
Florida sits in phase 3 of 3, and most of the state remains open. Restaurants have indoor dining at 50% capacity, some sale if liquor is restricted, and social distancing guidelines are enforced for all businesses.
More information on Florida’s recovery plan can be found here.
While New York does currently sit in phase 4 of 4, their stratum for reopening is subject to an additional system of zones which allows for certain areas to be subject to closure depending on the area’s Covid-19 positivity rate. Businesses in certain zones are closed if they are deemed to be high risk (indoor dining, for example).
Information on New York’s recovery plan can be found here.
Information on federal reopening guidelines
The federal government has issued general guidelines to inform states as to show they can structure their reopenings. It has also taken action in the form of declaring a state of emergency, as well as legislating the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. These actions had a variety of impacts, including enabling governors to execute reallocation of funding, adjust health care regulation, and more.
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Onsite Testing For Businesses Large And Small With Drip Hydration
Drip Hydration provides onsite Covid-19 testing for businesses in Miami, NYC, and California. Our registered nurses set up a testing station at your workplace, conduct tests throughout the workday, and provide professional medical guidance if someone on staff does test positive.
Our onsite testing service can be a valuable part of any infectious disease preparation and response campaign. Testing can help detect active Covid-19 cases before they spread throughout your staff, helping keep your employees and your customers healthy. Learn more about how we can help you operate safely during the pandemic.