New Guidelines for Reopening Businesses

Written By: David T. Azrin

businessman with face mask holding an open sign

As businesses reopen, they need to be thoughtful about the safety measures they take to lessen the spread of the virus. This is critical in order to protect employees and gain the confidence of customers.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) has recently issued new Guidelines for all businesses, as well as considerations specific to particular types of businesses and industries, including, special CDC Restaurant Guidelines, CDC Construction Worker Guidelines, and CDC Housing Facility Guidelines.
In addition, a restaurant group called ThinkFoodGroup has posted a very helpful Restaurant Reopening Playbook, which provides creative ideas and guiding principles for restaurants. 
All businesses should continually check the CDC website for any updated guidance.
The most recent CDC guidelines recommend that all businesses adopt specific measures to maintain social distancing and physically separate employees from each other and from customers, when possible, which may include:

  • Implement flexible worksites (e.g., telework).
  • Implement flexible work hours (e.g., rotate or stagger shifts to limit the number of employees in the workplace at the same time).
  • Increase physical space between employees at the worksite by modifying the workspace.
  • Increase physical space between employees and customers (e.g., drive-through service and physical barriers such as partitions). 
  • Use signs, tape marks, or other visual cues such as decals or colored tape on the floor, placed 6 feet apart, to indicate where to stand when physical barriers are not possible. 
  • Implement flexible meeting and travel options (e.g., postpone non-essential meetings or events in accordance with state and local regulations and guidance). 
  • Close or limit access to common areas where employees are likely to congregate and interact. 
  • Prohibit handshaking. 
  • Deliver services remotely (e.g., phone, video, or web). 
  • Adjust business practices to reduce close contact with customers — for example, by providing drive-through service, click-and-collect online shopping, shop-by-phone, curbside pickup, and delivery options, where feasible. 
  • Move the electronic payment terminal/credit card reader farther away from the cashier, if possible, to increase the distance between the customer and the cashier. 
  • Shift primary stocking activities to off-peak or after hours, when possible, to reduce contact with customers. 

The guidelines also recommend that employers undertake the following safety measures for the workplace:
Consider improving the engineering controls using the building ventilation system, which may include the following:

  • Increase ventilation rates.
  • Ensure ventilation systems operate properly and provide acceptable indoor air quality for the current occupancy level for each space.
  • Increase outdoor air ventilation, using caution in highly polluted areas. With a lower occupancy level in the building, this increases the effective dilution ventilation per person.
  • Disable demand-controlled ventilation (DCV).
  • Further open minimum outdoor air dampers (as high as 100%) to reduce or eliminate recirculation. In mild weather, this will not affect thermal comfort or humidity. However, this may be difficult to do in cold or hot weather.
  • Improve central air filtration to the MERV-13 or the highest compatible with the filter rack, and seal edges of the filter to limit bypass.
  • Check filters to ensure they are within service life and appropriately installed.
  • Keep systems running longer hours, 24/7 if possible, to enhance air exchanges in the building space.

Ensure the safety of your building water system and devices after a prolonged shutdown:

Give employees, customers, and visitors what they need to clean their hands and cover their coughs and sneezes:

  • Provide tissues and no-touch trash cans.
  • Provide soap and water in the workplace. If soap and water are not readily available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol. Ensure that adequate supplies are maintained.
  • Ideally, place touchless hand sanitizer stations in multiple locations to encourage hand hygiene.
  • Place posters that encourage hand hygiene to help stop the spread at the entrance to your workplace and in other workplace areas where they are likely to be seen. This should include signs for non-English speakers, as needed.
  • Discourage handshaking. Encourage employees to use other non-contact methods of greeting.
  • Direct employees to visit CDC’s coughing and sneezing etiquette and clean hands webpage for more information.

Perform routine cleaning:

  • Follow the Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting to develop, implement, and maintain a plan to perform regular cleanings to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
  • Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, keyboards, telephones, handrails, and doorknobs.
    • If surfaces are dirty, clean them using a detergent or soap and water before you disinfect them.
    • For disinfection, the most common, EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective. A list of products that are EPA-approved for use against the virus that causes COVID-19 is available on the EPA website. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection products (e.g., concentration, application method, and contact time).
  • Discourage workers from using each other’s phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment, when possible.
  • Provide disposable disinfecting wipes so that employees can wipe down commonly used surfaces (e.g., doorknobs, keyboards, remote controls, desks, other work tools and equipment) before each use.
  • Store and use disinfectants in a responsible and appropriate manner according to the label.
  • Do not mix bleach or other cleaning and disinfection products together. This can cause fumes that could be very dangerous to breathe in.
  • Advise employees to always wear gloves appropriate for the chemicals being used when they are cleaning and disinfecting and that they may need additional PPE based on the setting and product.

Perform enhanced cleaning and disinfection after persons suspected/confirmed to have COVID-19 have been in the facility:

Limit travel and advise employees if they must travel to take additional precautions and preparations:

  • Minimize non-essential travel and consider resuming non-essential travel in accordance with state and local regulations and guidance.
  • Advise employees to check themselves for symptoms of COVID-19 before starting travel and to notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick.
  • Ensure that employees who become sick while traveling or on temporary assignment understand that they should notify their supervisor and promptly call a healthcare provider for advice if needed.

Minimize risk to employees when planning meetings and gatherings:

  • Use videoconferencing or teleconferencing when possible for work-related meetings and gatherings.
  • Cancel, adjust, or postpone large work-related meetings or gatherings that can only occur in-person in accordance with state and local regulations and guidance.
  • When videoconferencing or teleconferencing is not possible, hold meetings in open, well-ventilated spaces continuing to maintain a distance of 6 feet apart and wear cloth face coverings.
about the authors

David T. Azrin


David T. Azrin represents clients in business law matters, including corporate, intellectual property, franchising, employment law, and commercial litigation matters.

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