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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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).
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 purification system with a True HEPA filter may be the best alternative.
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:
Here are the steps that businesses should take upon reopening:
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.
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.
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 purification system to increase clean airflow.
Consider an air purification 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.