How to reopen a business under Phase 1

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The beginning of the “new normal” for businesses across North Carolina will start to take shape at 5 p.m. Friday when Gov. Roy Cooper begins phase one of the state's reopening. Phase one is set to last until at least May 22.

The order removes the designation of essential and nonessential business and allows some businesses to reopen, if they can practice social distancing and other measures to help prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

A checklist, adapted by the National Retail Federation and provided by the National Main Street Center, represents guidance intended to highlight key topics to consider as businesses seek to re-open operations. Individual circumstances should be considered when crafting personalized checklists.

Employer practices should be designed to discourage contagious employees and customers from entering a business or facility and mitigate the effect of contagious individuals in the store, according to a release from Sanford Area Growth Alliance, which shared the checklist Friday.

COVID-19 checklist for businesses

This checklist was adapted by the National Retail Federation.

Place signage in conspicuous locations throughout your business, particularly high-traffic areas such as entrances and exits, checkouts, breakrooms, fitting rooms, etc. Signage may include:

  • Asking customers and employees not to enter the store if they are sick or have felt sick within the last 72 hours.
  • Encouraging customers and employees to maintain six feet of distance at all times, per CDC guidelines. (Use floor markers located six feet apart any place where people are likely to congregate.)
  • Entrance-exit or one-way only signs.
  • Recommended hygiene practices to help prevent the spread of germs.
  • CDC posters promoting frequent and thorough handwashing in all restrooms.
Consider these protective measures
  • Request customers temporarily cease using reusable bags, or to bag their own purchases if they choose to use reusable bags, and to clean reusable bags.
  • Provide information on pick-up/carryout/curbside options.
  • Screen temperatures of customers and employees through infrared thermometers or thermal scanners, and turning away those with fevers.
  • Consider programming in-store audio messaging to frequently remind employees and customers to follow CDC guidance on hygiene and physical distancing.
  • Consider installing Plexiglas “sneeze-guards” for high-traffic check-in/check-out counters that do not allow adequate distance between the customer and employee.
  • Locate distance markers outside of store to allow for queuing while maintaining physical distance; consider assigning employees to assist customers with waiting to enter.
  • To the extent possible, stagger use of point-of-sale terminals and other workstations.
  • Implement and encourage use of contactless payment options for employees and patrons, and contactless signatures for deliveries. If contactless signature is not possible, require use of one’s own pen.
  • Stagger employee shifts and meal breaks to avoid crowding, when possible.
  • Space chairs and tables in break rooms, cafeterias, and common areas to allow 6ft distance.
  • Widen high traffic areas to the extent facility configuration allows.
  • Work with vendors to establish limited access protocol, and restrict deliveries to service entrances.
Consider face masks and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  • Encourage or require employees and customers to wear approved facial coverings, gloves, and personal protective equipment (PPE) at all times, if possible.
  • Determine whether employees will be permitted to use their own face masks and PPE, and on what terms and conditions, with special attention to potential use of filtering face-piece respirators (e.g. N95 or equivalent).
  • Consider offering face masks and/or gloves to customers who enter without any.
  • Designate receptacles for discarded PPE.
  • Limit the number of people in elevators.

Cleaning and Sanitization
  • Obtain cleaning products that are on the EPA’s List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2.
  • Make cleaning kits (including disinfectant wipes or sprays, disposable gloves, paper towels, masks, hand sanitizer, and other cleaning supplies) readily accessible throughout store, including point of sale terminals and other workstations that will be cleaned periodically throughout the day.
  • Make hand sanitizer available throughout store for customers and employee use, including entrance(s), common and checkouts areas.
Implement a cleaning schedule for frequently touched surfaces and spaces, which are most likely to result in the transmission of communicable diseases, including the following:
  • Shopping carts and baskets.
  • Door and drawer handles.
  • Light and other power switches (consider signage to keep lights on at all times, or utilizing exiting motion sensor capabilities).
  • Shared tools such as pricing guns, pallet jacks, tape guns, box cutters, etc.
  • Chairs, tables, and benches.
  • Vending machines and self-serve kiosks.
  • Refrigerators, microwave, and other frequently touched objects and surfaces in employee breakroom.
  • Time clocks
  • Cash register, including touch screens, keyboards, mouse.
  • PIN Pads (touch screen, keypad, and pen).
  • Checkout counter and/or conveyor belt.
  • Cabinet pulls.
  • Checkout dividers.
Consider temporarily closing restrooms to the public, if possible, if not possible try to keep the following clean:
  • Door handles and flush levers.
  • Toilet bowl and toilet paper holder.
  • Sinks and faucets.
  • Paper towel holders and/or air dryers.
  • Diaper-changing stations.
  • Sales floor and other common areas:
  • Fixtures with handles or pulls.
  • Any other identified “high-touch” surfaces.
Train employees on safe practices including:
  • Discouraging handshakes.
  • Social distancing guidelines and expectations.
  • How to monitor personal health and body temperature at home.
  • How to properly wear, remove, and dispose of face masks and PPE.
  • How to launder cloth face masks and uniforms.
  • Cleaning protocol, including how to safely and effectively use cleaning supplies.
Returns and Exchange Policies
  • Consider suspending or modifying return and exchange policies.
  • Establish procedures for processing, handling, and disinfecting returns and exchanges. Consider requiring returned items to be sealed and stored separately, requiring employees to use PPE to process, handle and disinfect returns, and storing returns in isolation for a safe time period before returning them to sales floor.
Fitting Rooms
  • Decide whether to re-open fitting rooms.
  • Ensure any open fitting rooms are “customer ready” by cleaning prior to any customer usage. Similarly, ensure that fitting room is properly sanitized after customer use.
  • Encourage customers to use hand sanitizer/wipes before trying on items and to keep protective mask on during fitting.
  • Determine procedure for disinfecting fitting room items (not just clothing, but also jewelry, eyewear, etc.). For example, consider having items that have been tried on segregated and steamed, and wait a safe time period before putting items back on sales floor.
Samples and Testers
  • Prohibit customer use; remove from sales floor.

What’s still closed

There are still some businesses unable to resume operating for at least the duration of phase one. Personal care and grooming businesses — barber shops, hair salons and nail salons — will remain shuttered.

Also included among the places to remain closed are bars, health clubs, fitness centers, gyms and other indoor exercise facilities. Those include yoga studios, martial arts, indoor trampoline, rock climbing facilities and indoor and outdoor pools.

Entertainment venues, such as performance halls, movie theaters and bowling alleys also remain closed under the order. Restaurants will remain limited to providing drive-through, carryout and delivery services.

What can open

For those businesses who meet the criteria to open, there will be certain limitations imposed. Most notably, retail businesses can operate at 50% capacity, that is allowing the number of customers equivalent to the building’s fire safety occupancy levels established by the local fire marshal.

Along with rules for capacity, there are also several other measures the executive order requires. They include maintaining the 6 feet apart social distancing rules, in both lines at the point of sale and in other high traffic customer areas, such as aisles.

What’s required

Business owners are required to perform frequent and routine cleaning and disinfecting of areas where a lot of hand contact is prevalent, using EPA-approved disinfectant for COVID-19.

Businesses also need to make hand sanitizer available and ensure soap and hand drying materials are available at sinks.

The order also calls for businesses to conduct daily screenings for symptoms of the virus among employees and to send home those who show symptoms.

Businesses are also now required to have a plan in place to immediately isolate an employee from work if they develop symptoms.

Also expect to see signs at store entrances that remind customers about social distancing recommendations and asking customers who are sick or symptomatic not to enter. The signs will also remind customers of the limited number of people allowed in the building at one time.

The order encourages businesses to provide designated times for seniors and other high-risk residents to access their business and develop and use online, phone, curbside or drive-thru pickup options or home delivery and contact-free checkouts, where possible.

High volume business, such as grocery stores and pharmacies are also encouraged to install clear shields at cash registers, clearly mark entry and exit points and provide routine assistance with routing through aisles in the store.

Businesses, regardless of what their focus is, are asked and encouraged to continue things such as promoting teleworking and limiting non-essential travel if possible, limiting face-to-face meetings to no more than 10 people, provide social distancing measures between desks and even staggering shifts to reduce the number of people in the workplace at one time.

Businesses are also encouraged to recommend the use of face coverings and provide instructions for proper usage and encourage employees who are symptomatic to stay home by providing sick leave policies in line with CDC guidance.

Rick Curl can be reached at rcurl@mydailyrecord.com or at 910-230-2037.

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