Hanging out in our backyard last week, my husband pointed to a rare sighting. Thousands of feet in the sky, a commercial jetliner departed El Paso. “Someone’s going somewhere!” he joked.
It was a reminder that the economy is opening up. Not that we needed reminding. Crowded retail parking lots have surprised us.
It’s a delicate balance, keeping the economy going and keeping people safe. Some countries have managed it – Iceland comes to mind. Sweden has tried but the jury is out – they have a disproportionately high death rate compared to their neighbors.
In El Paso, business owners are trying to figure out how to run their operations safely. For its part, the city of El Paso launched “Pledge to Safety” last week in partnership with El Paso County, Downtown Management District, Destination El Paso, Paso del Norte Health Foundation, Better Business Bureau, El Paso Chamber and El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
The program provides COVID-19 safety guidelines and invites businesses to comply and formally pledge their commitment. There are also marketing materials so a business can offer customers some reassurance that it’s taking precautions.
It’s a good list and consolidates best practices neatly on one sheet: Provide the appropriate protective gear and hand sanitizer. Comply with state and local rules and follow CDC cleaning protocols. Screen for symptoms and temperature check employees. Keep employees and customers at least six feet apart. Train employees on COVID-19 prevention, respond to customer concerns and use technology where you can to reduce the spread.
I like the framework and it looks straightforward enough, but for many businesses it’s still a daunting challenge. Honoring each precaution is complicated, especially if you’re a small business without roles like compliance, human resources, security or janitorial. Just keeping up with the literature surrounding rules and mandated regulations across federal, state and local levels is a challenge.
What about screening for symptoms and temperature? Who on staff will handle that especially if you’re staggering shifts and changing schedules continuously? Or, what if the person you put in charge doesn’t come to work that day? How do you routinely enforce this procedure? And when someone is determined to have a temperature above 100 degrees, then what happens?
Let’s talk about the symptoms. Have you read the list? Are there any ailments not on it? If you have bad allergies like me, most mornings begin with a cough and sore throat. Muscle pain? Yup. Headaches? I work for a local newspaper! Diarrhea? That’s personal. It’s more likely the lone exception of a person who doesn’t have something on this checklist. So who makes the call on what to do next?
And what if an employee refuses to wear a mask? Then what? Some legal advice: You better have written policies for all of it.
And what if you can’t always get your hands on PPE, hand sanitizer or cleaning products? Have you looked for alcohol or Lysol lately? The shelves are bare.
Also, I’m learning that cleaning and hygiene practices are highly subjective. Have you realized that if you sanitize your hands, then adjust your facemask, you just contaminated your hands? Many people wipe down workstations with sanitizing wipes (if you can get them). Did you know the CDC says to wear gloves when doing that? That’s a lot of gloves every day.
And then there’s the social distancing. Keeping desks and chairs six feet away is one thing. But what about when we need to pass one another to reach the printer or bathrooms? Surely we’ve felt the same challenge down the aisles at the grocery store. As far as I can tell no one honors the one-way direction so that we don’t have to pass each other.
Is it a losing battle? I wonder. But I’m all for doing anything we think might help. So yes, we’ll Pledge to Safety. I hope you will, too. You can submit your pledge at epstrong.org/