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COVID guide: Protect customers & enhance business

Consumer studies consistently show that during the COVID-19 pandemic one factor potential customers consider before doing business with a store, company or service is how safe they feel. 
One major July study from global research firm Ipsos reached this conclusion: 
“More than ever customers are eager to see visible efforts from retailers to implement health and safety protocols.” 
The authors added, “Trust is highest among retailers that are making visible efforts in their stores to implement health and safety protocols, including clear reminders and signage.”
Among its findings were that “29% of consumers would stop shopping a retailer altogether if they knew the brand was not implementing health and safety measures,” “27% of consumers would pay up to 10% more for products at stores they feel are doing a superior job ensuring their customers’ health and safety,” and that “94% of consumers say that ‘stores that are doing a good job in health and safety compliance will earn my business.’”
The study may be found at tinyurl.com/y67q86ut.
What does this mean for Addison County firms and service providers?
Maybe that following Vermont Department of Health guidelines might be good for business as well as protecting the health of community members and employees.
On Sept. 1 the Department of Health updated those guidelines, which can be found at tinyurl.com/yca3qvdy.
Changes are few for businesses. 
First, a broad category of gyms, massage therapists, nail salons, spas, tattoo parlors and businesses that require home visits are limited to 25% of approved fire safety occupancy (1 customer per 200 square feet) and are now limited to a “maximum of no more than 75 indoors and 150 outdoors.”
Second, event and entertainment venues, as well as restaurants, must maintain a log of the name and phone number of customers and staff for 30 days in the event contact tracing is required.
Third, a section on facemask requirements notes that retail cashiers may wear a translucent shield or sneeze guard “if the employee works alone and does not interact with customers outside the work station.”
The rest of the mandates include the basics: 
1. Signs: Signs must be posted at all entrances clearly indicating that no one may enter if they have symptoms of respiratory illness. Also, it might not be a bad idea to promote other measures being taken. 
2. Masks: Employees must wear face coverings over their noses (yes, cover your noses, folks) and mouth when in the presence of others. A translucent shield is acceptable for retail cashiers working alone. 
Businesses and nonprofits do not have to serve anyone not wearing a mask, but must find a way to accommodate those who cannot wear a mask for medical reasons. 
3. Stay six feet apart: Employees, and customers as much as possible, must observe social distancing of six feet. Use of shared workspaces is discouraged. Visual reminders are recommended and instill customer confidence. 
4. Soap and sanitizer: Employees must have easy access to soap and water or hand sanitizer, and hand washing or hand sanitization is required frequently before, during and after work. To the extent possible, businesses should provide access to hand washing and/or hand sanitizer for vendors and customers.
Note: Some local businesses provide hand-sanitizing stations outside their doors, an amenity many customers appreciate. 
5. Cleaning: Common spaces, vehicles, equipment, bathrooms, frequently touched surfaces, and doors must be cleaned regularly and, when possible, before transfer from one person to another. Probably not a bad idea if customers know and see this. 
6. Sick? Stay/go home: Employees should leave work if sick or symptomatic. The Department of Health defines that as “fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell.”
7. Limited Occupancy: Businesses should limit the occupancy of areas such as break rooms and cafeterias to allow employees to maintain social distancing, and employees should clean those areas and their work spaces after use. Related: When working inside, doors and windows should be open to promote air flow to the greatest extent possible and the number of people occupying a single indoor space should be limited.
8. Health check on entering: Before work employees should complete a health survey, including a temperature check, either at the worksite or at home. Employees should verify they are symptom-free before work.   
9. Passenger limit: A limit of three people in one vehicle when conducting work. Mass transit, taxis and ridesharing vehicles are exempt from this rule.
10. Work Remotely: When possible, businesses and nonprofits should allow employees to work remotely. 

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