Companies planning to open under easing statewide restrictions face some obstacles and should prepare for a new normal, business leaders say.
“Unfortunately, this is going to be a way of life for a long time,” said Dan Mesenburg, owner of ServiceMaster of Rochester and member of the Byron City Council.
Mesenburg, during a webinar Tuesday hosted by the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce, outlined steps and offered advice for business owners hoping to reopen.
Minnesota has been under a stay-at-home order for more than a month in an effort to slow transmission of the COVID-19 virus.
Gov. Tim Walz announced last week that about 20,000 businesses -- mostly small manufacturing, warehousing, and some offices -- would be allowed to reopen. That would allow up to 100,000 Minnesotans to return to work.
Businesses planning to reopen are required to develop COVID-19 safety plans before doing so, Mesenburg said.
He said business owners should appoint a coordinator for their COVID-19 policies, put those policies into writing, educate staff about those policies and about ways to prevent spread of the virus and show customers a plan is in place.
Part of the plan is likely a more rigorous cleaning schedule, he added.
“It’s going to be more expensive to run a business,” he said.
Customers will also need reassurance that businesses are taking steps to prevent the spread of the virus. He suggested posting policies to provide reassurance.
“We aren’t going to want to hide the fact that we are cleaning,” he said.”We’ll want to show customers that and even post the cleaning schedule.”
It’s also important to remind customers of their responsibilities, too. He said that after a few months, some people might not feel the urgency to practice physical distancing.
“We’re going to have challenges with customers not following the rules,” Mesenburg said. “How are you going to professionally remove that customer from your building?”
Restaurants and hospitality businesses are still closed and will likely face more strict guidelines when they’re given the go ahead to open.
Walz likened the reopening plan to a dial being adjusted, not the flip of a switch. Health officials will monitor for new cases of the virus with each roll back of the lockdown.
A key to allowing businesses to open and allowing people back to work is setting up testing for the virus. Walz said he wants Minnesota to be able to process 5,000 tests per day. Testing has doubled statewide since last week with more than 2,000 tests being administered daily.
“It’s not going to be unexpected to see more cases,” said Graham Briggs, director of Olmsted County Public Health.
Testing will allow health officials to identify an outbreak sooner and more effectively isolate targeted businesses or people, health officials said.
A major uptick in cases could show that relaxing the lockdown is going too fast if health officials can’t contain outbreaks.
“If we see that we can’t (contain outbreaks), that’s when we turn back that dial,” Briggs said.
However, seeing those results could take some time.
“If you make a decision today, you’re not going to see that in the emergency room for weeks,” he added.