As we get closer to April 30, the current end-date of the federal government’s social distancing guidelines, many cities and states are wondering how they can safely re-open. A safe return to work is going to be staggered, staged, and managed. With businesses slowly re-opening this week in Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee we examine what procedures might be put in place for several industries to return to business.
As two of the hardest hit industries due to the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants and retail businesses will need to take severe measures to protect employees and customers. In an earlier RYE article, Richard Florida and Steven Pedigo stressed the importance of proper social distancing and compliance with health and safety provisions for shops and restaurants. This could include reducing occupancy, outfitting employees with protective gear, and health checks for employees and visitors.
Among the states that are slowly re-opening, we can see how these policies are being implemented. South Carolina, where stores re-opened on April 20, is enforcing social distancing and calling for businesses to operate at 20 percent capacity or at five customers per 1,000 square feet. In Georgia, Governor Kemp noted that social distancing is still required and that businesses should check employees’ temperatures and increase sanitation efforts.
When it comes to industrial plants, such as meatpacking and manufacturing, similar measures will have to be implemented to protect workers. In China, in addition to other measures, factories have installed thermal checks at the entrance, denying access to those with high temperatures. European countries have been adopting their own version of Chinese measures where manufacturing companies are “eliminating any overlap between shifts to reduce contact, staggering lunch and break times to reduce crowding, and installing no-touch trash bins.”
For other industries impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, such as airlines and hospitality, a return to business is still out of reach with some experts stating that it would take two to five years before we could return to ‘normal’. Airline service could initially be reinstated piecemeal, determined by health conditions in each state or country. Even then, airports and hotels will have to convince travelers that they are safe. This will likely entail adding temperature checks and necessary health screenings to the security measures already in place, as well as increased sanitation efforts in planes, airports, and hotels.
While industries are on a different timeline when it comes to re-opening, returning to business will look similar for all. Personal protective equipment, health checks, and social distancing will become ubiquitous as we start to return to business. And depending on how the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, and when a vaccine might be widely available, these measures might be around for a while.