Our city is waking up. Businesses are opening. Friends and family members who haven’t seen each other in months are once again finding ways to connect in person.
These are wonderful and needed changes that will positively impact our economy and our collective peace of mind. But as we continue to reach toward a more sustainable lifestyle, business owners, staff and customers must all do their part to protect each other and our community.
The majority of businesses are ready to reopen, but want to do so carefully to guard the safety of their staff and customers.
It has been a challenging first quarter of the year, and we all recognize the need to re-engage our economy. At the same time, most business owners recognize that practicing good safety is vital to good management and good business. Customers are more likely to return to a business that values their health and safety.
Additionally, the more we slow the spread of COVID-19, the more quickly we can move toward easing more restrictions, leading to an improved economy.
Business owners can take many simple steps to protect against COVID-19. You can start by encouraging physical distancing by hanging signs, placing markers on the floor where lines form, and moving tables apart or closing some tables if they are not movable. Physical distancing is enhanced by limiting the number of patrons who can enter your business at once and setting up separate entrances and exits where possible.
It is essential to screen your workers for symptoms, have ill employees stay home when sick and encourage them to get tested if they show signs of COVID-19. Make sure staff know cleaning and disinfecting protocols and are aware of expectations. Some businesses are even making one employee the “distancing/safety captain” — encouraging that individual to take the lead by helping staff adhere to safety protocols and serving as a resource for safety questions.
You know your business best, so think about the smart decisions you can make to protect staff and customers, while also being reasonable. For instance, in a restaurant, patrons can’t eat and drink with a mask on, but you could ask customers to wear a mask when they come to the counter to place an order or when they use the restroom. If a customer is clearly ill, you can gently ask them to leave and return when they are feeling better.
Your voice as a business owner is important in our community. Let your customers know that you are counting on them to follow safety guidelines, so your business can continue to serve the community and thrive. Share with your customers what you are doing to protect them so that they know you care about their safety.
It is only through protecting public health and slowing the spread of COVID-19 that we have reached a point where businesses can reopen, and people can begin to re-engage. The best thing we can do to rebuild our economy and get America back to work is to provide ongoing, courteous reminders and encouragement to customers and staff to continue to follow public health guidelines.
For more information on keeping your business safe, visit elpasocountyhealth.org or call 719-578-3167.
Dr. Robin Johnson, M.D., M.P.H., is the medical director of El Paso County Public Health. Yemi Mobolade is the Colorado Springs Small Business Development administrator and the co-owner of two local restaurants.