With a constant flow of reports and updates from local, state and federal agencies regarding the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, public concern continues to grow. For local businesses – especially small, local operations – times like these can be difficult, as they attempt to navigate how to continue operations in a safe manner with minimal impact to revenue.
“Health and government officials are working together to maintain the safety, security and health of the American people,” the U.S. Small Business Administration posted on its website. “Small businesses are encouraged to do their part to keep their employees, customers, and themselves healthy.
According to the administration, it is working directly with state governors to provide low-interest loans to small businesses and nonprofits that have been severely impacted by COVID-19. The funds are through the administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program, which provides working capital loans of up to $2 million to offset temporary loss of revenue.
On its website, the Small Business Administration lays out other assistance available for businesses, as well as tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for businesses, including:
- Actively encourage sick employees to stay home.
- Separate sick employees.
- Emphasize respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene by all employees.
- Perform routine environmental cleaning.
For some business types, employees can work from home, effectively eliminating the risk of spreading the virus throughout the office. However, many do not have that luxury, particularly those in the service industry, which often require face-to-face interaction to operate.
Restaurants employ some 15 million employees across the country, according to the National Restaurant Association. Despite no evidence that the virus can spread via food, the association has advised owners and operators of restaurants to regularly reach out to state and local health departments for the latest advisories and information pertaining to their locale. The association advises restaurants to familiarize themselves with and implement workplace preparations laid out by the World Health Organization and OSHA, which is also helpful information for other business types.
OSHA released a 35-page guidance plan on its website for businesses with the following recommendations:
- Develop an infectious disease preparedness and response plan.
- Prepare to implement basic infection prevention measures.
- Develop policies and procedures for prompt identification and isolation of sick people, if appropriate.
- Develop, implement and communicate about workplace flexibilities and protections.
- Implement workplace controls.
- Follow existing OSHA standards.
The World Health Organization published a list of precautions for businesses to take on its website, as well:
- Make sure your workplaces are clean and hygienic, including all surfaces such as desks and tables, and objects such as phones and keyboards.
- Promote regular and thorough hand washing by employees, contractors and customers by providing sanitizer dispensers in prominent places, displaying posters and communicating.
- Advise employees and contractors to consult national travel advice before going on business trips.
- Brief employees, contractors and customers that those with a mild cough or low-grade fever should stay home.
For more detailed information about managing your business during the coronavirus pandemic, visit who.it, sba.gov, osha.gov and cdc.gov.