Re-Opening, not Remission
Jurisdictions around the world are preparing to re-open after weeks of strict public health restrictions. Having slowed the incidence of COVID-19 infections, health officials have green-lit the phased re-opening of some additional businesses and services but largely haven’t changed the limitations on physical distancing and large gatherings.
This will require significant changes in the way people and businesses go about their day-to-day life and operations. Large gatherings such as concerts, movie and stage theatres, even churches won’t be allowed to resume for months, if not closer to Christmas or even into 2021.
There is a good reason for this, and one that people may have trouble fully understanding. While we are re-opening things on a phased basis, it is because we have reduced the transmission rate to a point where we haven’t overwhelmed our health systems. Let’s be clear though, COVID-19 is not in remission, and we aren’t likely to be able to resume normal life until it is.
Let’s be clear, we aren’t resuming life as it was before the pandemic. In fact we are unlikely to ever go back to the same way it was – some of the precautions that we’re taking because of COVID-19 are likely to stay with us for years to come. What we are doing is gradually re-opening some businesses and services to minimize the health, economic, and societal impacts of the pandemic.
This pandemic has been slowed down, but it isn’t under control and will continue to rage until we find a way to limit the spread – likely through a vaccine of some type. There is evidence that even having been infected with SARS-COV-2 (the pathogen that causes COVID-19) isn’t enough to protect someone. Until we have a proven way of preventing COVID-19 we cannot resume life as it was.
This means that we’ll have to continue to take appropriate precautions to ensure everyone’s safety and that we can control the speed with which COVID-19 spreads. In some places, this won’t change things much from regular business. In others, there will be massive changes and upheaval in how businesses operate.
Trying things before buying them is – at least for the foreseeable future – no longer going to happen. We won’t be able to try on clothes, won’t be able to test mattresses, even taking a car for a test drive will be extremely restricted – if it happens at all.
Physical distancing is here to stay, and that has significant impacts on industries like travel and leisure, concerts, conferences, and other industries that rely on placing a large number of people in a small space. Theme parks of all types have shut their doors, marking the first time in history that every location in that sector has been closed since Disneyland opened in 1955.
For other industries, physical distancing will mean significant changes in how they set up and operate their stores. It may mean limiting the number of people in their stores by adding access control by way of staff at the entrances, or by limiting the number of employees in the store at once. If may also mean structural changes to their stores to force people to be more than 6 feet away from each other. These changes are up to each business to decide and implement.
When things like travel, theatres, concerts and events start happening again, they will look very different until we’ve put COVID-19 into remission with a vaccine. They will operate at a much lower capacity to help facilitate physical distancing. Every other seat will likely be empty, meaning that capacity will be severely restricted – while this has the possibility of raising prices, many people won’t feel comfortable in those settings, so demand will likely be lower. This may even things out in the pricing.
Increased hand washing is going to be the norm everywhere. Restaurants and businesses will likely have hand washing stations at every entrance and people will be required to wash their hands before coming in. Some cruise lines already do this, they station crew at every entrance with spray bottles of hand sanitizer along with hand sanitizer pumps hung on the wall, and sinks for hand washing at the entrance to every dining facility.
Eating out is going to change significantly as well. Restaurants are going to see an increase in costs – particularly those that use tablecloths and buffet-style restaurants. Linens and soft fabrics will need to be cleaned and changed after every seating. Furniture such as chairs that can’t be wiped clean will need to be steam-cleaned regularly (likely once or twice a day), or else taken out of service. The days of serving yourself at the buffet are over, at least for the moment, as staff will be required to serve buffet-style food to limit the possibility of cross-contamination between people.
Whatever “normal” is going to look like after COVID-19, we don’t know what shape that’s going to take yet. Nor can anyone say with any certainty how long it will take for us to reach whatever that new normal is. We can only take this one step at a time and keep treating the symptoms until we can put this into remission.
RMR Safety can work with you and your organization to get you on the right track. Reach out to us and see how we can help you with getting your business back open as quickly and safely as possible.