As California starts to loosen the shutdown of all nonessential business, it’s giving companies more specific directives on what needs to be done to operate as the coronavirus continues to spread in the U.S.
“Some may see these as additional hurdles, but these are common-sense public health requisites,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a daily telebriefing.
Newsom and state officials on Monday revealed that starting Friday, most retailers and related manufacturers previously forced to close under the lockdown ordered in March could begin to reopen more widely. Retailers can start to offer curbside pickup for shoppers and manufacturers can have a certain number of employees back to work. In order to do that, however, businesses that reopen will have to enact a number of changes that were first publicly specified Thursday.
Newsom called it a “gradual” process, and it’s one that is far slower than other states.
Overall, any business will have to ensure that employees and customers abide by physical distancing guidelines, so staying six feet apart. Businesses are also being told that indoor break rooms should be closed and workers should be given an outdoor space to take breaks, where physical distancing can be ensured. For retailers and related logistics companies doing deliveries, which will increase as more businesses can expand operations and staffing, the state said any workers should be given supplies of masks and gloves, as well as disinfecting supplies for their delivery vehicles. As for businesses that expect to have lines form as people either wait to order or pick up goods, companies are expected to enforce physical distancing, as grocery stores have been doing throughout the pandemic.
The state is also “encouraging” retailers to install hands-free devices for payment, if they don’t have them already, or at the very least swipe-only payment. They are also to ensure hand sanitizer or disinfecting wipes are available for employees and shoppers, and that workers are adequately protected with masks and gloves.
“You’ll see workers maybe coming to your car to deliver goods you ordered wearing gloves and a mask on,” a state health official said. “Manufacturers and warehouses may look like that, too, with fewer people working at a time.”
All retailers and related manufacturing and logistics companies will be given checklists from the state on efforts they need to take to reopen, and Newsom suggested consumer-facing retailers post them publicly. In addition to physical distancing, disinfecting supplies and PPE for workers, businesses should have a disinfecting protocol in place, a “site-specific protection plan” and have trained employees on how to limit the spread of germs, as well as encouraging anyone who feels sick to stay home.
“At the end of the day, I’d say 70 percent of the economy is being impacted by Phase Two, but the biggest restriction is consumer confidence,” Newsom said. “Just because you open and can do curbside pickup doesn’t mean customers will show up, nor does it mean workers will show up. That’s why the guidelines are focused on not only one person to one another, but business to employee.”
One retail area that the new guidelines for restarting businesses do not apply to is shopping malls. Those are to remain closed, for now, until the state comes up with guidelines on how such spaces can reopen to the public while ensuring physical distance between people. Malls are currently in the group of businesses “opening later,” according to the state, along with restaurants, offices and museums. All of the sectors will be getting specific guidelines from the state on how they can go about reopening.
But some counties may be able to push along with reopening these businesses sooner. Newsom admitted that there are some areas in the state that have been seeing cases of and deaths from the coronavirus drop for several weeks and that if some counties can prove the ability to keep people safe, adequate testing for the virus and the ability to contain future outbreaks, among other things, they can reopen more broadly with approval from state officials.
“We’re open to arguments, and we’ll try to provide some flexibility, but this is a health-first framework,” Newsom said. “If [counties] can’t meet it, then we’re not able to accommodate that and we’ll be compelled to enforce it in a thoughtful and judicious way.”
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