May 4, 2020
COVID, and Screening, and Guidelines? Oh My!
There are many potential and hypothetical answers to the spread of coronavirus, but what of the practical? Some countries, and some states within our own, are re-opening even if on what is essentially a trial basis. If the green light were to flash for your business, is there a plan in place to keep your employees and customers as safe as possible from COVID-19?
Looking around the world, we find a variety of COVID screening systems. As always, not every option will be viable for every venue. Temperature testing is being used by many venues already and will be one of the simpler and less invasive methods available of screening for COVID-19. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) temperature testing of employees is allowed, “because an individual with the virus poses a direct threat to the health of others.” Under this guideline, COVID testing of employees is also permissible. However, COVID screening tools must be administered without prejudice, and guidelines must be made clear to employees.
Temperature is also a valid COVID screening tool for customers. It can be done quickly and noninvasively at point-of-sale. Another measure that can be taken is centered around communication with guests. One example has been set by Washington. The state’s Department of Health has issued a Guidance (based, in part, on CDC screening guidelines) with steps that all businesses should take with regard to both employees and customers. The Guidance suggests daily screening of employees as well as screening of each customer before entry. The questionnaire touches on whether a person has experienced cough, shortness of breath, or fever among other symptoms.
Because testing is not yet readily available for businesses, personal protective equipment and distancing will be measures whose relevancy will remain once customers step through their doors. Businesses that will have the opportunity to reopen soon would do well to look to some of those which did not close due to being considered essential. PPE for employees is a must, and should be made available to them by the business. Keeping contact between individuals should be kept to a minimum, both between customers and employees and with employee interactions with one another.
While limiting the number of people in a business should certainly be a consideration, the financial aspects of doing so must also be taken into account. To find an acceptable balance, some businesses might look at expanding hours and staggering shifts which could allow for fewer people in one place at one time. Putting in place a policy requiring reservations or appointments will allow business operators to ensure they have control over how many customers are coming in while eliminating the need to turn people away at the door. Another option that has been utilized by many is to split a staff into groups which are then scheduled exclusively together, thereby cutting in half the number of other staff an employee is exposed to.
Some strategies for this include spacing work stations at least six feet apart when possible, as well as providing for space between customers in your venue. This includes, for example, reducing the numbers of tables in a restaurant, if necessary, to provide appropriate space between groups. Venues where seating cannot be as easily rearranged, for example casinos, might do well to block off every other slot machine, and limit the number of patrons at a gaming table.
To state the obvious, cleanliness is vital. As is communication. Some customers will object to some of the safety protocols put in place. It would behoove any establishment to have a system in place to deal with dissenters. Clear signage visible before clients reach the door could head off conflict. Every staff member needs to be on the same page regarding protocols, and those protocols must be enforced uniformly.
While opinions differ on whether re-openings are belated, spot on, or premature, it is to be hoped that we can find a way to make them as safe and seamless as possible, for the sake of both safety and sanity.
As always, we love to hear your take.