Updated: Apr 28
A Local’s Guide to Re-opening Amidst the Covid-19 Crisis; 7-Steps for Safe Return
This is an unprecedented time we are all living through. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those in our community who have lost friends and family, and to all the heroes working on the frontlines to keep everyone safe from harm.
For anyone who runs a small business, re-opening after Covid is critical, so that we can continue to feed our families, and pay our bills. Perhaps some governmental relief helped bridge the bad times, but most of us would like to focus on how to get our doors back open — safely. And that is going to depend on a very careful and complete plan for your business operations.
Establishing a SRS — ‘Safe Return Strategy’
‘The Spur’ has come up with a guide that we are following to reopen our business, and we thought it might be helpful for other local businesses, too, as we are all navigating these unknown waters together. We estimate that Governor Cuomo will allow many businesses to reopen by mid-to-late May, so now is the time to build a Covid -19 ‘Safe Return Strategy — SRS’ that will keep your employees, your customers and your own families safe during this crucial time.
A vital part of your strategy has got to be getting your clients, and your employees, to feel confident that you are maintaining appropriate cleansing and safety standards to safeguard them. Businesses that want to survive will present their intentions, with crystal clarity, to workers and customers alike — thereby attempting to answer every and any question, before it is even raised. Make your plan and share it with the world — let them know you care!
And BTW, a sound strategy is not just a ‘nice to have’ — it’s the law! Businesses that don’t comply with emerging new rules will face the possibility of expensive fines — and even litigation. Covid-19 is going to be with us for a while, so we need a plan to work with it, and not expect it to go away anytime soon. Check out our “7-Step Safe Return Strategy” below — and please — stay safe!
The most important thing is to keep yourself safe. Just like when on a plane you must put on your own mask before assisting others, your own health has got to be priority number one. Our recommendation is try out this simple site.
This tool asks you a series of different questions pertaining to your life and health, which take about 30 seconds to answer. Promptly, the elegant solution offers you a “Covid Score” from 1 to 10. Each “CovidNumber” corresponds to a complete protocol which should then be followed. This process will demystify the process of attempting to ascertain your own health, and the health of those around you — and it’s free! Encourage people in your world to take the test at CovidNumber.org. What’s your Covid Number?
2) Covid Clean
If you expect clients and employees to visit you, or your office, store or space, it needs to be deep cleaned on a regular basis, especially hard surfaces that are often touched. There are many local cleaning firms that could use the extra revenue right now, so clean up and help out! At The Spur, we work with GermRX, a local company that uses a special electrostatic cleaning technology.
You also, of course, need to make sure employees and visitors wash their hands as often as possible — ideally as soon as they enter your premises! Make sure there is plenty of hand sanitizer around in the entryway and offer it often.
3) Making Sure Employees & Visitors are Symptom Free The White House recently issued rules to place the burden on businesses to ensure their employees (and visitors) are Covid-19 symptom free. This is a HUGE responsibility if you are a business owner, so make sure to have a plan in place to protect yourself. How will you be able to prove to employees, customers — and regulators — that you have a systematic process in place to regularly assess the symptoms of workers and visitors alike?
Dr. Eachempati, a former NYC doctor, Sag Harbor resident, and Spur member just launched a brilliant new platform called Cleared4Work. This platform automates the compliance demands of checking employee and visitor symptoms, and provides a digital mobile pass which allows them to enter your workspace once they’re cleared! It’s a super cool tool, and it’s FREE for employers with under 10 employees. Check out the recent Fox News segment on the platform.
Another on-site safety layer businesses can add, is to monitor the presence of fevers for each employee or visitor entering your space. There are a range of thermometers you can choose from but obviously the best ones are touch-less, so you don’t risk transferring germs between people. We purchased this product and plan to use it when we re-open! However, a recent research paper looked at 5,700 patients in NY hospitals and less than a third presented a fever during their Covid-19 treatment. So use thermometers as an extra layer of your strategy, but it should NOT be the only tool you deploy.
4) Contact Tracing — Boxing Corona
There is a lot of discussion around Contact Tracing. Contact Tracing is the process of identifying anyone who may have come into contact with an infected person. When you’ve identified an infected person, swift contact tracing of those who might have been exposed can help slow the spread.
Essentially this process of testing, tracing, and isolating, or quarantining, aims to contain the virus, to box it in. Google and Apple are working on a bluetooth platform solution, but it’s still months away from being rolled out by local governments. Although Cuomo just announced the largest contact tracing effort ever attempted — this strategy is not likely to help us in the short-run.
Nonetheless, what you can do now is track who has been in your office or store, so you can let them know if their presence in your store overlapped with someone who tested positive with the infection. You could do that manually by writing people’s name in a log book (careful transmitting germs with a pen!) or, alternatively, Cleared4Work conveniently has tools available to help with this precaution.
5) Testing — 1, 2, 3 Should you worry about testing yourself and your staff? This is a question everyone is asking. Getting a nasal test to confirm if you or the people around you have Covid-19 can be painful — and results are not conclusive. First, many tests have only a 70% accuracy rate, so there are lots of false negatives. Also, Covid-19 has no cure, so the treatment is mostly supportive and includes rest and fluids. Knowing you have it does not change your course of action. If you have the symptoms, you should immediately quarantine yourself, don't wait for a positive (or negative test). This is especially critical if you have underlying health conditions, or are around those that might. The main co-morbidities with Covid-19 patients are hypertension, obesity and diabetes which can affect over 40% of the US population, so its not a niche group. You can have a drive through test in Riverhead and now in Southampton.
One immediate action after a positive Covid-19 test is that you need to start contact tracing and determining whom you may have exposed before you tested positively. People whom you were around during that time need to be notified, so they can check more carefully for symptoms and, if appropriate, quarantine themselves. If you feel flu-like symptoms, use a symptom checker that follows CDC guidelines like FluChecker and based on your symptoms, follow its' recommendations.
The ‘Antibody Tests’ for Covid-19 are also very much in the public eye right now. These tests show positive when you have had an exposure to Covid-19, even if you didn’t realize it. These antibody tests are being used to see if individuals might possibly have been exposed to Covid-19, and by many to check if they immunity.
But don’t get too excited yet — in recent mass testings in many countries (including the USA), less than 5% tested had antibodies to Covid-19. The overriding majority of people have no proven immunity and therefore may still need to wear masks and socially distance for months into the future. The FDA is still working on approving and interpreting the validity of these tests, so be cautious on any marketing claims you see about test accuracy. There have been recent news articles that the antibody tests also have a high false negative/positive rate which means they should not yet be relied upon to change your health protocols.
As with all medical issues, if you have questions or concerns, please contact your primary care physician. Nothing in this article should be considered medical advice.
Since less than 5% of the general US population test positively for Covid 19 antibodies, 95% of us will still have to wear masks and practice socially distancing for some time. The most important function of ANY mask is to diminish the spread of Covid-19 from asymptomatic people to others who have not yet been infected. This practice is even more critical interacting with community members who are in higher-risk categories.
Don’t expect the need for masks to disappear soon. If you want to learn the difference between wearing cotton masks and N95 masks, you can read this report and decide which is the best option for you. With vaccines not expected until at least 2021 — or later — smart businesses will plan ahead. What is your mask plan? Many local entrepreneurs are now making cotton masks and posting cool designs on Facebook. Southampton Village is also handing out free masks to residents.
7) Sociable Social Distancing While we are in this crisis, the 95% of us that are not vaccinated or possibly immune need to try to maintain a safe distance from others, especially when indoors. Six feet of distance between individuals is recommended. Recent research however, shows that the virus can travel through AC ducts when airborne, so beware sitting near recirculating vents!
Reviewing and redesigning your interior space to accommodate for social distancing and prevent Covid-19 spread is important. Grocery stores have done this by making aisles one way, or opening up early for certain at-risk groups. At The Spur, we will limit the number of people that can visit each day, space members out more across our work desks, and suspend larger events. However, we have also kicked off a series of online digital marketing programs that anyone is welcome to join.
We will continue to share any insightful information we can at these uncertain times. For those who want to learn more, we have created a portal of useful links at this page. Keep checking back every few days as its updated regularly.
Also, if you have concerns as to if your Covid-19 plan conforms to labor rules and regulations, this is a useful article with all the updates on what you can, and can't expect from your employees.
Finally, please read our last article, “As Giving Grows” to check out the other things we are doing to give back to the community during this crisis — many of them you can do too! If you have any ideas on how The Spur can help people collaborate to care for our community, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be Safe and Stay in touch with us on Facebook or Instagram.