COVID Reopening Requirements: What Businesses Need To Know About Clean Air
Sanalife's team has compiled a comprehensive list of COVID-19 reopening requirements focusing on mitigation, safety, and improving IAQ.
The COVID-19 pandemic rocked the world, forcing businesses, governments, and major organizations to change how they live and work drastically. The spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, was fast and destructive. To help reduced biological aerosol transmission, people were required to stay indoors as often as possible, minimize physical contact, increase the distance between other people, and wear personal protective equipment (PPE).
A lot has changed in the eight-teen months since the pandemic began, with CDC guidance and local health guidelines continuously changing every day. Furthermore, communities and their businesses have to routinely alter their operational strategies to remain open during COVID-19 and variant spikes. As a business, these changes are daunting and often unclear. Therefore, Sanalife's team has compiled a comprehensive list of COVID-19 reopening requirements focusing on mitigation, safety, and improving IAQ.
Air Quality Factors to Consider When Reopening
Amongst COVID-19 guidelines increasing ventilation and improving air quality is a critical strategy in mitigating viral spread. Therefore, if you are planning to reopen, then you'll need to consider a few factors in regards to air quality, including:
- Your geographical location and legal jurisdiction
- The type of space you have
- The volume of air you have in your space
- The average amount of density in your space
- Air quality vs. air pollution
- The number of air pollutants in your space regardless of COVID
- Your industry
- Your building's current ventilation and air cleaning system
- The amount of physical contact that is needed for your business to survive
You essentially need to be able to assess the type of air quality your business normally experiences, the kind of labor or activities ongoing in your business, how many people will be in your building at a given time, if close contact is necessary, and if ventilation or fresh air can be introduced or increased.
Preparing Your Business's Indoor Environment For Reopening
Running a business or large organization is hard enough, and COVID policies have made it even more difficult. However, there are simple ways to manage these policies so that you can reopen your business safely.
#1 Assess Your Business Type and Industry
A lot of the reopening requirements have to do with the type of industry or business you operate. By identifying your business type, you can understand your business's flexibilities and what verticles to overcome. Your industry will also indicate potential levels of exposure, the risks at your job, and the number of precautions a business owner needs to take to ensure safety.
The CDC has issued healthy and safety steps based on occupation or industry. For example, there are things that banks can do to keep their clients safe, including disinfecting surfaces, wearing a face covering, washing hands, and covering coughs and sneezes. The safety requirements may be different for banks, schools, restaurants, and hospital settings. There are additional steps that employers should take as well, including creating a COVID-19 Workplace Health and Safety Plan, assessing hazards based on a hierarchy of controls, and identify ways that COVID exposure can happen.
#2 Understand The Allowed Scope Of Operation For Your Business
CDC has provided a list of allowed activities and the scope your business can operate within. The CDC's recommendations are to mitigate COVID-19 exposure while reducing measures for vaccinated and potentially unvaccinated employees and patrons.
The CDC recommendations indicated that unvaccinated employees and patrons should be encouraged to continue wearing masks. This recommendation coincides with unvaccinated individuals participating in indoor dining or attending in-person events (concerts, parades, sports events).
#3 Assessing Your Current Indoor Air Quality And Ventilation
When addressing the American people at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Fauci recommended opening a window to increase ventilation. While it may seem like one window won't do much, it can help reduce the spread of COVID drastically. In fact, the biological aerosol spread of COVID-19 can be deceased when ventilation is increased within an indoor environment.
Additionally, businesses must identify existing ventilation quality and if any problems may exist. Being by first assessing your HVAC system has an adequate MERV-rated filter to capture common airborne contaminants adequately. It is recommended that facilities should at least use a MERV 13 filter. However, common efficiency and energy cost problems could occur from MERV 13 filters. Thereby, considering a portable air purifier system with a True HEPA filter may be the best alternative.
Steps for Managing COVID Opening Requirements
Business owners are required to implement protocols for protecting employees and customers. These protocols must follow the jurisdictional requirements but also be specific to your business. The primary concerns of reopening a business include:
- Preventing and reducing the transmission of COVID among employees
- Maintaining healthy business operations
- Maintaining a healthy work environment
- Ensuring that all reopening policy is appropriate for your business
Here are the steps that businesses should take upon reopening:
- Check the regulations that your business must comply with. These may often change, so regularly visit the CDC website and local government websites for the most up-to-date information.
- Implement COVID policies with your employees and check in with them around their feasibility. You may need to monitor these policies as things change.
- Implement more flexibility as far as sick days go, especially reducing the chances of employees coming in sick and with COVID.
- Increase air ventilation where possible. Improving ventilation is one of the primary hierarchies of controls to protect employees. Upgrade your HVAC system's filter to a MERV 13 or HEPA filter and introduce a portable air purifier into the spaces with high congestion. Any indoor spaces that can't have a window open should have an air purifier.
- Ensure that contact tracing, hand washing, hand sanitizing, and surface sanitizing are regularly followed. Implement a strict policy to ensure that these cleanliness requirements are met.
- Establish your vaccination protocol. This is a complex topic, so make the best decision for your business.
- Reduce the number of personnel allowed in the workplace to reduce the rate of transmission and population density in your workplace.
- Consider policies specific to high-risk employees.
What if there is a Suspected COVID Case?
When you are preparing to reopen, you should have a plan in place for if a suspected COVID-19 case is found at your workplace.
- Be sure to isolate the person exhibiting symptoms immediately. This will help stop the spread.
- Identify if that person has come into contact with other persons at the workplace.
- If any individual shows symptoms of COVID, they should be immediately separated from the others and sent home.
- The individuals should be tested immediately. Once results are issued, then you can move forward. If negative test results, the workers should stay home for at least 24 hours or until the symptoms reside. Positive COVID cases will have to inform their employers, who are legally required to report positive cases to Health Departments.
If there is a suspected COVID case at your workplace, you will need to move through the steps of contact tracing. Check with your local jurisdiction, so you know recommended actions you should then take.
If there is no known spread of the virus, then you can continue operating your business without interruption. However, caution should be made in how to proceed. Try to identify how the case occurred (did the individual travel) and make sure to clean the environment thoroughly.
Added Air Protection With Portable Air Purifiers
Reopening during the COVID pandemic is confusing and stressful. Take it slow and make sure that you have all the policies and clear communication for employees or customers.
Regularly perform COVID hygiene, like hand washing and regular cleanings. It would be best to implement a hierarchy of controls to maintain healthy operations while keeping your personnel safe.
Air ventilation needs to be improved; if you cannot introduce outside air to a space, reduce the occupancy in those areas or implement an air purifier system to increase clean airflow.
Consider an air purifier system, which can be as simple as plug-and-play portable devices, for immediately improving air quality and reducing the risk of transmitting the coronavirus.