On May 15 (or possibly later), Governor Cuomo will begin to “reopen” New York State for business. Ideally, it should be an orderly process, where priority will be given to services based upon their level of importance and risk as opposed to a single “open the gates” approach. For example, hospitals and medical practices should be first in line, as non-elective and elective procedures were given a backseat in order to make room for COVID-19 patients. As fewer cases are being reported, hospital wards are becoming emptier. This puts a major financial strain on medical institutions. Other places that should follow are banks and government offices, but it won’t be long before everywhere else will reopen. 

As businesses open, life will be far from normal.

How will it look? Will people wear gloves and masks all the time? Will the six-foot social distance rule remain in effect? Will hand washing and hand sanitizers be the mainstay in every office? As long as the virus exists in its current and future manifestation, the overriding issue will always be safety. Indeed, every newly-infected person poses a risk to others including employees, customers, visitors, and families. This may force a business to either close again or quarantine infected persons.  The fact that many were infected and possess the antibodies to prevent reinfection is of little consolation because some newer cases have shown that people who were already stricken with coronavirus and recovered were infected a second time. Also of concern is a second wave that may occur in conjunction with the flu season that will complicate matters.

So how do we remain safe?

How do we keep our employees, customers, visitors, and families safe?  Here are some key suggestions:

Daily temperature checks should be administered to employees. Anyone complaining of symptoms should be encouraged to not show up and work from home, if possible. The manner in which sick days are counted or allotted should be changed in order to encourage employees to honestly report their condition. If someone feels they can lose their job or pay and thereby force themselves to attend work can jeopardize the safety of the entire organization.

Keep a healthy supply of precautionary supplies available. At least for the immediate future, stock a sufficient supply of 3-ply surgical masks, hand sanitizer, and disposable gloves for your staff. If possible, arrange your furniture in a way that ensures your staff will be farther away from other people, or when interfacing with the public, create a barrier between them and the public.

Most importantly, regularly disinfect and sanitize your work area. Coronavirus can live on hard, non-porous surfaces for up to several days. Most common areas that are susceptible include light switches, elevator buttons, door handles, mezuzahs, chairs, countertops, and virtually anything that comes into contact with the human hand. While there are quite a few products on the EPA list that are approved for COVID-19, just about all are in short supply. Also, some products that contain bleach, ammonium, mineral acids, and other hazardous substances can be toxic to the air you breathe and harm surfaces. It is best to use eco-friendly, nontoxic, and hydrogen-peroxide-based disinfectants. Regular use of a professional disinfecting service is your best bet in keeping your workplace safe.

In New York State, it is widely expected that a business can reopen upon the condition that they adhere to new rules that include regular disinfection of the workplace, good hygiene, and continued social distancing. This is especially true for medical facilities, nursing homes, rehabilitation clinics, community centers, and gyms. A detailed record should be kept for each disinfection, which will show compliance and instill confidence with employees, customers, and visitors.