Vail Valley businesses need careful planning to reopen
Webinar presenter urges businesses to make sure they can reopen safely, for customers and employees
- Green: Initial steps to reopening.
- Blue: About four to eight weeks after early reopening. No significant increase in cases.
- Expert: About four to eight weeks after intermediate reopening. No significant increase in cases.
As Colorado takes its first steps toward reopening, business owners need to plan, perhaps more than they ever have.
That was one of Dan Brown’s core messages during an April 30 webinar hosted by the Vail Valley Partnership. Brown is the founder and president of Partners, an environmental safety, engineering and surveying firm.
Speaking to an online audience of just more than 40 people, Brown talked about what we know now about the COVID-19 virus, and how that current knowledge affects attempts to reopen.
The biggest problems with COVID-19 are the speed with which it spreads, and the fact that a number of people can spread the virus without showing any outward symptoms.
The public health response at first focused on expanding the capacity to treat COVID-19 patients.
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With that done, or largely so, Brown said the next challenge is reopening.
Brown called Eagle County’s public health orders “a very well thought-out, protective and reasonable process.”
Those orders are structured in a way that the reopening of communites doesn’t cause an escalation of new cases, or the threat of overwhelming health care resources.
To prevent new spikes in virus cases, “It’s going to take all of us following these (reopening) procedures,” Brown said. Otherwise, future shutdowns are likely to be more stringent than those we’ve seen over the past several weeks.
The bigger question is how communities can continue to stay open. Brown noted that COVID-19 isn’t going away any time soon.
Current safety precautions are like seatbelts in cars, Brown said, in that they reduce risk.
That’s where planning comes in.
Businesses need to ensure they’ve complied with the current public health orders, from having plenty of hand sanitizer on hand to having contactless payment systems and enough space for social distancing for both customers and employees.
There are also new legal requirements and guidelines. For instance, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration now considers contracting COVID-19 as a reportable on-the-job injury.
Brown said as counties have opened COVID-19 hotlines, they’re receiving a number of reports from disgruntled employees.
“We have to recognize as business owners, how do we not get shut down again,” Brown said, adding that the COVID-19 pandemic will affect business operations for the forseeable future. Protecting employees is a key part of operations going forward.
“You’ve got to have a written plan,” Brown said, adding that such plans are required in Eagle County. “If you don’t take the time to really write it down … it’s going to be chaos.”
Those plans range from daily procedures including health checks and cleaning.
“Don’t just assume your janitorial firm is properly qualified,” Brown said.
With so many new procedures now either mandatory or essential, Brown said businesses that show the public they’re paying attention will be the ones customers reward.
Vail Daily Business Editorß Scott Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.