The unique challenges faced by different business sectors can make a safe, phased reopening even more complex.
Perhaps one of the trickiest sectors is the food service industry. Restaurants and bars are — by their very nature — social places where people gather. This can lead to overly risky behaviour, especially in groups of people previously thought of as relatively protected — at least from the worst of it — such as millennials.
Take the case of a bar located in the Montérégie region, near Montréal in Québec, Canada. Last June, a total of nearly 60 people attended two different house parties (already an issue). Testing later revealed that a third of the attendees had COVID-19. To make matters worse, five of the contaminated attendees ended the night by visiting the bar. Following that unfortunate incident, the Montérégie regional health board had no choice but to issue an alert to urge all those who had attended either of the two parties and anyone who had visited the bar that weekend to get tested. One of the regulations that must now be observed in bars is to stay seated at all times (except for bathroom breaks of course).
Much further south, The New York Times reports that, in Florida, 2020 is quickly becoming the Summer of Dread. In fact, for four consecutive days at the end of July, the daily number of fatalities broke state records. As coronavirus cases surge across much of the United States, leaders are rethinking their strategies to curb the spread. Some governors are backtracking on reopening their states. Leaders in Texas and Florida abruptly set new restrictions on bars, a reversal that wasn’t even on the table just a short while ago.
The Trying Hard
On another front, we are now past the mid-summer point, and the reopening of schools has increasingly become a concern. Perhaps one good thing about the rapidly changing COVID‑19 terrain is that it pushes us to stay current and think ahead. As institutions, schools don’t have the same business priorities as other sectors. Safety can share “top billing” with learning. According to a couple of studies published in The Lancet, there are low levels of coronavirus transmission in schools when public health measures are in place. The first study used modelling data to analyze whether a second wave of infections could be avoided in the U.K. if safety measures are enhanced in schools as they reopen. The second study analyzed real-world data from the first wave of COVID-19 infections in New South Wales, Australia to understand virus transmission in schools and nurseries. Both studies concluded that schools can operate safely if effective virus control measures are in place.
Considering this is a global pandemic, we must collaborate with and learn from international educational allies.
Some businesses have already seen positive results from strict — yet understanding — measures put in place and adhered to. Apple moved to open select stores in May and continued on through June. In an open letter to customers from Apple Senior Vice President Deirdre O’Brien, the plan for reopening was laid out in a very transparent fashion. In addition to such measures as strictly limiting the number of customers inside the store, taking temperatures and providing masks, the stores put an emphasis on Genius Bar appointments, drop-off and pick-up, as well as enhanced deep cleanings that focus on all surfaces, display products and high traffic areas. This strategy allows for store openings but also keeps things controlled and safe — and customers satisfied.
Taking a look at a completely different business sector, GM had to adopt extra special care and planning when reopening plants. After all, these are assembly lines where workers are, by necessity, in close proximity with one another. Most of GM’s concerns over workers spreading COVID-19 were related to the entrances and exits of the plants. In the past, workers would come in close contact with each other as they left the building while the other shift arrived. For this reason, the automaker began with one single shift at its U.S. plants, monitoring the situation and then slowly introducing more shifts.
“Our comprehensive safety procedures are working well, and our suppliers have done a great job implementing their return-to-work strategies and safety playbooks,” the company said in a recent statement. “We are in a position to increase production to meet strengthening customer demand and strong dealer demand.”
There have been a few setbacks in some of the hardest hit American states, but nationally and internationally, the industry is finding its feet.
GM credits what it calls a smooth restart to having learned a lot about keeping workers safe by developing and implementing strict safety measures in China and South Korea earlier this year. GM’s plants in South Korea never shut down and GM did not have one worker fall sick.
More and more, we are accumulating information that will help us adapt to this new reality. For example, here are some relevant quick tips for the restaurant industry that could also apply to a wider range of businesses.
So it seems there are many takeaways from the gradual reopening of business in North America and beyond. As with many things, some good, some… not so good… and some still in development.
Cascades remains committed to providing a safe, clean environment for our own employees – and to providing our clients with products that will help them do the same.
Source: Cascades PRO