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Responsible Reopening: Consumer, Retail, and Service Businesses

By Easton Saltsman

May 11, 2020

After weeks of stringent stay at home guidelines, Governor DeWine has put forth a plan to responsibly restart Ohio’s economy. By reopening the consumer, retail, and services sector on May 12, approximately 89% of the private economy will resume in Ohio. Before reopening, consumer, retail, and service businesses should be familiar with the Governor’s mandatory guidelines and develop a reopening plan to both reduce liability concerns and promote the safety of Ohioans. 

Businesses That Reopen on May 12

Since May 1, certain retail establishments and facilities that restricted their operations to curbside pickup, delivery, or appointment-only have been open. However, on May 12, all consumer, retail, and service businesses may reopen, except for those businesses that are specifically prohibited from reopening. Such businesses that will remain closed include, beauty salons, gyms, movie theatres, tattoo parlors, skating rinks, bowling alleys, and restaurants/bars. Business owners should consult Section 13 of the Stay Safe Order to determine if their business falls under one of the listed exclusions. Of note, since the announcement of the Stay Safe Order salons, personal care services, and restaurant patios may open on May 15 and restaurants with dine-in-service may open on May 21. 

Mandatory Requirements 

The Stay Safe Order lists various mandatory requirements that consumer, retail, and service businesses must abide by when reopening. The following practices must be followed: 

  • Ensure a distance of 6 feet between people (if not possible, install barriers)
  • Require employees to wear facial coverings (unless specifically exempted)
  • Employees must perform daily symptom assessment (i.e. check temperature monitoring coughing or breathing issues)
  • Place hand sanitizers in high-contact locations
  • Require employees to stay at home if symptomatic
  • Clean certain high-touch items after each use (i.e. baskets, carts, counters, credit card machine) and disinfect other high-touch items hourly
  • Require regular handwashing by employees
  • Stagger entry of customers and guests
  • Specify hours for at-risk populations (i.e. elderly)
  • Clean merchandise before stocking
  • Discontinue product samples and self-service food stations
  • Post social distancing signage
  • Establish maximum store capacity (Maximum capacity will depend on store size and ease of movement. It is recommended to have ¼ to ½ of past capacity) 

Suggested Requirements 

In addition to following the aforementioned mandatory reopening requirements, businesses should consider implementing further guidelines and rules. Every store and business location has its own unique set of challenges, so there is not a one-size-fits all approach. Depending on the needs of your business location, the following practices are recommended to be followed:  

  • Require face coverings for customers (or provide face coverings upon entry)
  • Accept customers by appointment only
  • Do not allow customers to use recyclable bags
  • Group employees by shift to reduce exposure
  • Provide health questionnaire for customers at entry point
  • Increase availability for curbside pickup
  • Suspend return policies
  • Make social distancing reminder announcements over the PA system
  • Implement customer flow patterns in stores (i.e. one-way aisles)
  • Space customer lines with floor markers
  • Close once a week for deep cleaning
  • Encourage contactless payments methods 

Suspected and Confirmed Cases of COVID-19 

Businesses should take certain precautions if they suspect or confirm a COVID-19 case affiliated with their store. If any employees develop symptoms while at work, businesses should immediately isolate the individual and seek medical care. Furthermore, the store should be immediately shut down for deep sanitation. Companies should contact local health officials about suspected cases or exposures to help facilitate effective contact tracing. 

Moving Forward 

Thus far, the Governor has not been shy about drastically changing course or altering the guidelines due to the changing tide of the COVID-19 pandemic. We expect various changes to the mandatory requirements once public health officials have been able to analyze the effects of the reopening plan. As such, businesses should consult their legal advisors to stay up-to-date on the latest guidelines.

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