When Gov. Jared Polis announced this week that hair salons, tattoo parlors and other retail businesses could soon reopen, his plan eased some of the tension building for workers who live paycheck to paycheck and haven’t received a steady income over the monthlong stay-at-home order.
But health experts warn a phased reopening of businesses may not be a straightforward process. If there is a resurgence of COVID-19 cases and the curve trends upward, those businesses may need to close again.
Colorado state officials will closely monitor cases to ensure the state doesn’t return to an “unmanageable place of growth,” said Amy Duckro, an infectious diseases expert at Kaiser Permanente Colorado, in an interview with The Durango Herald.
With a limited number of tests available in many parts of the state, residents must self-report when they are feeling COVID-19 symptoms – including fever, cough, chills or shortness of breath. Health experts also encourage employers to foster a work environment in which their employees stay home if they feel ill.
Businesses should contact traceThe safer-at-home order Polis put in place for when businesses start to reopen requires strict precautions for workers to social distance themselves as much as possible.
Jared Eddy, an infectious disease physician at National Jewish Health, said businesses should limit the amount of physical contact employees have with other employees, that way if someone contracts the virus, the company can more easily identify other employees who should self-isolate.
Keep ’em separatedDuckro said despite a “strong work ethic in our communities,” a heightened awareness around illness will help ensure employees are not exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace.
Businesses should focus on making sure people are at least 6 feet apart. For businesses that can’t maintain that distance, such as hair salons, employees should wear masks and clean surfaces, such as door handles.
Starting May 4, up to 50% of staff can return to physical office spaces.
Reopening businesses is “not an on-and-off switch, but a dial,” Duckro said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted guidelines on its website for what business environments should look like over the next few months, such as following proper coughing etiquette and frequently washing hands. Offices should also be prepared to maintain a flexible work-from-home policy.
Duckro said the CDC is not advocating that testing be a requirement before employees return to work, in part because there is a national shortage of testing, despite the fact that some test-based criteria are included in the guidelines for reopening.
Final words of adviceFrequent hand-washing is the best way to stop the spread of the virus in the workplace
Duckro said people shouldn’t be afraid of each other. When she goes hiking on local trails, she said it is a “shame that people act afraid of each other.”
“Don’t forget that just because you have a mask on, we should still be pleasant with one another,” Duckro said. “Smile, connect with each other.”
Emily Hayes is a graduate student at American University in Washington, D.C., and an intern for The Durango Herald.